‘World War Z’ Review

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OVERALL RATING: 2.5/4

Cinematography

Swarms of zombies seen from afar. Anything up close and personal is left more for the imagination. There are quick moments that Ben Seresin does a great job capturing, such as the red flare lights, pharmacy scene, and rainy runway aesthetic. The films takes the audience to many different places under various conditions, and Seresin does a great job keeping up with those changes. Overall, it seems like his best cinematic work.???????????

Acting

There are no outstanding performances in this film, except maybe from a couple zombies. Brad Pitt plays it straight as Gerry, the family man well-endowed with survival skills. Pitt is a brilliant character actor and roles like these don’t do justice for his talents. I’d rather see Tyler Durden fight zombies, Detective David Mills investigating the cure, or Rusty Ryan steal from a zombie-infested research center. We hear of Gerry’s backstory in dialogue, but why bother if he’s just so normal and blasé? Gerry seems quick-witted and more importantly, unflawed, making his character much less interesting.

Directing 

Expect more of an action movie than a blood-and-guts film. Marc Forster does a great job capturing the global chaos of a zombie apocalypse, but he does not focus much on individuals in danger, leaving audiences with less sympathy toward the film’s many zombie victims. The film constantly moves from place to place with its shaky camera, which is understandable given the circumstances of a global apocalypse, but it needs more beats for Gerry’s character. I attribute this to a lack of character development and while it may not be in the script, Forster could have found some moments within scenes like when the family finds shelter or in Gerry’s many nightmares.

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Writing

Many last-minute, drastic script changes went into this film, resulting in an entirely new ending. Once Pitt’s character leaves his family, the film gradually loses its sense of danger. Zombies are everywhere, but he’s the only character the audience really needs to care for and they already announced the sequel. The film throws so many odd characters into the mix as well without really making much effective use of them.

It is an interesting world when zombies run, rather than shuffle around, but anyone familiar with Zombieland won’t see World War Z as pushing any envelopes. In fact, the film loses its edge by its second act, and there’s arguably no tension at all in the convenient and hasty final act. This film does a poor job of setting anything up for the sequel as well, ending as a standalone feature.

Score

Marco Beltrami’s score surges through the film but it’s only after that you realize its impact. It’s not about scares, but it is about the tension that builds during a global crisis. The score maintains the suspense of the film more than any other aspect. It’s especially unnerving after Gerry and his family realize that a traffic jam soon becomes a Philadelphia zombie takeover.

‘The Heat’ Review

I’ll start by saying I wasn’t in the best of moods before seeing this but thankfully, this film in not what a lackluster trailer had anyone believing. Many still may not enjoy it but I think that as a comedy, the film did what it should because I felt better while watching it. I even laughed a few times.

OVERALL RATING: 3/4 

Cinematography

I don’t believe that comedies shouldn’t have an identifiable style. Usually, it’s the darker comedies, like In Bruges, that take the risk but I think it’s time for the genre to try a little harder. This is why I appreciate The Hangover films because even as mass-appealing comedies, they have a specific look. This is also where praise for a lot of Simon Pegg and British films comes in. The Heat doesn’t really light any cinematic sparks in this department though, which is especially disappointing since you may know the cinematographer, Robert D. Yeoman, for his work on Dogma and many fantastic Wes Anderson films. As a filmgoer, if you’re only looking for some inspiring lighting or memorable long takes, this isn’t the film for you.

Acting

Melissa McCarthy outshines Sandra Bullock, and everyone else in this film, but both women have great awareness with physical comedy. They swear as much as they like as well, which is a lot with McCarthy’s insults, and it’s unapologetically funny. As per usual, McCarthy’s husband cameos in the film as well. Another great appearance is from Nathan Corddry, for any fan of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and other recognizable television faces include Kaitlin Oslon from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Tony Hale from Arrested Development, and Andy Buckley from The Office.Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 8.17.28 PM

Directing 

Paul Feig, above all, is probably the reason this film does hit its comedic beats. His body of work proves his diversity with comedy (yes, not all comedy is the same and not everyone works well with each style), and he sets high standards for female-driven comedies, especially because of Bridesmaids. He seems to be the perfect director for McCarthy as well. She’s one of the funniest women around, but it seems that especially with Feig does her natural humor as the inappropriate character with heart please audiences the most.

Writing

The payoffs are predictable in Katie Dippold’s script, but at least the film keeps its pace. The problem with many comedies that extend over the 90 minute mark is that so many lose comedic steam midway through. When the energy gets lost in the script, the audience loses the laughter momentum as well. The Heat, playing off of its predictability, comes with a variety of  moments so ridiculous that it’s hard not to laugh, like McCartney’s “bad-cop” interrogation style or Bullock’s knife encounter. Not bad for a comedy that extends over 2 hours, especially since a sequel is now in the works.

"The Heat" New York Premiere - Outside ArrivalsThere is an issue with the generic lead characters. I wish they were something new to the buddy-cop genre rather than uptight FBI agent and reckless cop. The fact that they are female leads doesn’t excuse this lack of character development or make it refreshing. Merely dealing with gender doesn’t push any envelopes if the females are written like stereotypical male characters. This is the same issue Zero Dark Thirty had, because why are strong female characters basically written like a male, yet constantly proving themselves to men?

‘Man of Steel’: Lacking Personality and Effective Parenting

OVERALL RATING: 2/4

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Cinematography

This superhero film has a specific look. Visually, it’s one of those films you know looks great, but you don’t really care for it because it’s a wanna-be darker version of Superman that keeps masquerading itself as hopeful. Amir Mokri lights beautifully. Lord of War proves that even while much of his other work seems questionable, but Man of Steel falls short in story and characters, turning aesthetic appeal into a shallow surface. It’s like a costume, with nothing really super once you look past the cape… except maybe Henry Cavill’s abs.

Acting

Superman has no personality, and it’s probably because of his awful dads. One’s just some teleporting conscience in the form of Russell Crowe while his human dad is like a sadder version of Kevin Costner from Field of Dreams who tries teaching his son morals by being, well, kind of immoral. Sorry, Jonathan Kent, I’m pretty sure we don’t scold our super-human son for saving drowning children, but if your goal was to raise your alien son as passive, lacking personality even in comedic moments, and accepting of anything anyone tells him, then congratulations because Henry Cavill played along.

Zod comes back with a vengeance... and weird facial hair

Zod comes back with a vengeance… and weird facial hair

In fact, this entire film needs a personality reboot for the entire cast, except Michael Shannon does have his moments… playing the part of Michael Shannon. If you want a fun game while seeing this movie, imagine Zod as the angry sorority girl Shannon emulates for a Funny or Die episode.

Directing 

Zack Snyder, please leave. How is he still making films? How is he even working with an Iranian, Amir Mokri, after 300? Does he even have emotions because I cannot pick up on that with his films? Ok, I’ll give him a little credit and that’s about 30 seconds of the film when young Clark Kent fashions a cape for himself while playing with the family dog as his father of passive-immoral teachings looks on.

As for action, which is all Snyder cares for yet can’t entirely pull off, Superman’s fight with some Krypton girl is interesting enough until things get too heated up, much like the rest of this fiery mess. They really had a good time with the CGI fire on this film. It seems like there are so many different, strange action sequences that play out like moments from Thor, Hercules, and other strong-man movies so that more objects can fall to the flames. For a film about a superhero who can fly, a lot comes crashing down.

Writing

Why so serious... all the time?

Why so serious… all the time?

The film of disjointed moments and easily-resolved flashbacks. Nolan helped with the story and writer David S. Goyer is no newcomer to the superhero game, but where The Dark Knight Rises fell short, Man of Steel falls shorter. Basically, the lesson from this script is that superpowers and a pretty face don’t come with a super personality or vast emotional range. I do believe Cavill has the talent, but there’s nothing in this script for him. The comedic moments are poorly timed and his moments of heartache come with shouting, “No!” and, “Don’t do this!” for about 5 seconds.

As for an extremely picky complaint, there’s the actual reveal of naming the man of steel “Superman” that’s too cheap and poorly timed. The first half of the movie, even the film’s title, neglects referring to its protagonist as “Superman,” and I wish they kept it that way. We all know who he is, and this film want us to see that symbol as standing for something else, like “hope,” so don’t fly too far ahead of yourself if you want us seeing something more than an ‘S’, writers.

Score

I honestly cannot remember what the music sounded like in this film, or how it made me feel. Actually, I felt nothing. For a film that makes Superman a symbol of hope, hoping for another reboot instead of a sequel is a better option.

Hamlet on Film

2 December 2011

Hamlet is arguably the most often adapted William Shakespeare play. With each new adaptation, directors often take liberties in presenting the play. Though all 1990s film versions of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1990), Franco Zeffirelli’s Hamlet (1990), and Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet (1996) all provide dissimilar conditions in which Hamlet reunites with his close friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Each film diverges in the context of settings as well as in the use of camera angles, time-lapse techniques, various points in which the character of Hamlet’s tone/character alters, and other differing elements to underscore the character traits of each interpretation of Hamlet and to provide insight into the relationships between Hamlet, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern. Stoppard’s film focuses on the centrality of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern while presenting a melodramatic Hamlet from their point of view, Zeffirelli’s film focuses on Hamlet and his secluded nature that keeps the secondary Rosencrantz and Guildenstern at a figurative distance, and Branagh’s film implements a balanced interaction between the three characters while Hamlet appears to be in a state of mania.

Game of Thrones' Jorah Mormont on his Shakespeare game

Game of Thrones’ Jorah Mormont on his Shakespeare game

One of the aforementioned versions of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Stoppard’s 1990 version, will first be analyzed as a distinct rendition of such a popularly depicted play. To heighten the atmosphere of absurdity and existential tone of this interpretation, Stoppard’s film provides a particularly unique interpretation of Hamlet for this scene in which Rosencrantz and Guildenstern first encounter the young prince. Here, Hamlet (Iain Glen) exhibits characteristics of ridiculousness, egotism, and aggressiveness. Each of these character traits becomes visible at different moments as the scene progresses.

Hamlet’s absurdity comes out right from the start when he appears to be having a conversation with no one around. While Rosencrantz and Guildenstern watch him before entering, they are confused by Hamlet’s unaccompanied behavior; Rosencrantz perplexedly asks his companion, “What’s he doing?” and Guildenstern responds that the peculiar Hamlet is, “Talking…to himself.” The ambience is already set for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to be talking to an out-of-the-ordinary old friend rather than one who does not act out of absurd impulses because Hamlet’s actions have become exaggerated to the point where his thoughts have been projected in a secluded discussion.

Hamlet’s unusual behavior is also not limited to an enhanced disorientation in his own inclinations, but also to an inflamed ego. Stoppard’s film displays the egotistical Hamlet by giving him a certain, nonchalant tone of voice. Hamlet gives a proud speech saying, “What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god” (Shakespeare II.ii.301-4). Then, he goes on to casually dismiss these astonishments as “dust” (II.ii.306). Unconcernedly, Hamlet remarks, “Man delights not me” (II.ii.306). With this switch to a blasé attitude toward the subject matter, Hamlet brings an existential philosophy into this version by quickly, and uncaringly refuting all of his appraisals and celestial comparisons of man so that they become meaningless.cap037

The final telling trait of this particular Hamlet is his aggressiveness. While talking to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, he removes his sword, belligerently cuts down a chandelier when Guildenstern admits to being sent for, and injures Rosencrantz and Guildenstern when he grabs their hands to say, “I am but mad north-north-west; when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw” (II.ii.373-4). Even when Hamlet is standing on the table giving his dramatic speech, Rosencrantz must protect the items (plates and glasses) in front of him as Hamlet comes closer because Rosencrantz anticipates that the Dane could possibly break them. Through the use of these actions, both small (like the simple act of taking the sword out) to the more overly done actions (like actually cutting down a hanging chandelier), along with his apathetic egoism and absurdity, this Hamlet becomes different in that he becomes an unlikable interpretation of the Danish prince who is redeemed by comical, exaggerated behavior.

With a Hamlet that seems less like a leading man for his melodramatic behavior, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are seen as the central characters, especially since the scene starts from their perspective as they watch Hamlet. In this way, the scene is designed to revolve around their forthcoming experience with the prince, and in a role-reversal, Hamlet becomes a minor character in comparison. For example, during his dramatic speech, the camera often cuts to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, or shows wide shots that all three characters are instead of concentrating on only Hamlet. The time-lapse that keeps the characters in a widened shot also adds to the absurdity of this film because Hamlet’s clothes alter, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern look as though they have sat for hours, and the dark, undecorated room becomes illumined with candles and adorned with pictures. Viewers experience Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s point of view here because Hamlet does not seem to notice such changes, but Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do appear fatigued, which is what the audience relates to when a time-lapse is introduced to show how long Hamlet keeps his friends in one room.

While Rosencrantz and Guildenstern sit for hours and tolerate Hamlet’s antics, this shows that they are all close friends because in responding to him as well, Rosencrantz does not feel the need to defend himself when Hamlet asks why he laughed at “man delights not me…” (II.ii.306). Instead, Gary Oldman’s character suggest, through tone of voice, that his answer is genuine and rather than concocted to please Hamlet, so their friendship is long-standing enough to be so concerned with slight offenses. Upon entering as well, Hamlet is happy enough to see his friends that he elatedly embraces as well as joking pushes them. In the same instance, these visitors can casually walk in on Hamlet who is alone in a room, but in other versions others are around and Hamlet appears out in the open.

Zeffirelli’s Hamlet first appears in a field and in a pensive state by himself, not talking aloud like Glen’s Hamlet, to show that this Hamlet is more reclusive. From this, it becomes evident that Mel Gibson plays a very different Hamlet in Zeffirelli’s Hamlet from the same year. His manner is casual, but in a more relaxed way that correlates to the sunny and pleasant outdoors setting. The manner of speaking exhibited by this character takes a natural tone when greeting Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, so lines—such as, “…there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” (II.ii.247-8)—do not become overdramatized as in other versions. When the prince says, “Oh God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams” (II.ii.252-4) he even laughs.

Mel Gibson as Hamlet prior to going all Polonius crazy in real life

Mel Gibson as Hamlet prior to going all Polonius crazy in real life

Even so, Gibson’s Hamlet is passive aggressive, like when he asks to leave with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern because he “cannot reason” (II.ii.263), which characterizes this Hamlet as one who suppresses what he really wants to say to maintain a polite decorum (since his relationship with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is indifferent, so it would be rude to treat them otherwise within minutes of their arrival), and that eventually erupts into actual aggression when he kicks Rosencrantz in a hostile outburst. The point of this is to show that by initially trying to mask his anger, this Hamlet makes it clear that his relationship with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is not one in which he is good friends with them, because if he was, then he would not be bothered or uncomfortable with expressing his thoughts or feelings openly.

In fact, of the three films in question, Zeffirelli’s Hamlet is not as close to or friendly with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in this version. When Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive, Hamlet struggles with recalling their names. The tone projected upon the visiting friends is one of attempted toleration rather than a warm welcome, up until he gets so frustrated that he actually kicks one of his “good friends” (II.ii.223). The two extremes, of Hamlet acting so indifferent toward the arrival of his guests to the violent outburst on one of them, emphasizes the remoteness in the relationship between the three characters, especially since Rosencrantz even has to be fearfully defensive when Hamlet accuses him of disagreeing by laughter over Hamlet’s displeasure with man. In this scene, Rosencrantz would not be so fearful if Hamlet was more of an upset friend rather than an angry stranger to him, but that is not the case since Hamlet never acknowledges his guests in any way to suggest that they are anything more than casual acquaintances.

Another way in which Hamlet is distanced from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is through close-up shots. The element of close-up angles while Hamlet gives his speech create a sense that he is talking to himself and as well as a pseudo-sense that Hamlet is the only one around because others cannot be seen reacting to him, and when they are seen, it is often through long shots and the few individual shots are quick and brief. When Hamlet’s speech begins, he is seen up close, looking at his hand, and then walking forward without the camera zooming out. Not until he addresses Rosencrantz does the camera show any other character. Therefore, in this film’s scene, Hamlet is evidently the central character.

The British fellow who does all the Shakespeare

The British fellow who does all the Shakespeare

Alternatively, Branagh presents a very different Hamlet. Branagh’s Hamlet is one in which Hamlet is outdoors during the arrival of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The weather is cold, and less comforting than that of Zeffirelli’s film, which is how this scene also contrasts since Hamlet is highly erratic. His tone changes as quickly as it does frequently from being overjoyed to see his friends to speaking in a grave tone when he says, “Why, then, ‘tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” (II.ii.247-248). Similarly, his enraged “you were sent for” (II.ii.276-7) changes by the time he gives his very placid and composed speech on the curiosity of man, and tranquil music is even used to accompany this speech. The effect this has on viewers is that Branagh’s Hamlet is the most unpredictable, so the question regarding his sanity yields a more ambiguous answer.

Also, Branagh cleverly makes Hamlet seem questionably irrational with other components as well, such trudging his guests through the snow with haste only to slow down, then run rapidly and stop abruptly. The atmosphere is frantic, but Rosencrantz and Guildenstern show that they are capable of remaining in-synch with the Prince of Denmark and the camera follows all three as central characters. When Hamlet interrogates them to know their purpose of visitation, close-up shots alter evenly between all three characters and in Hamlet’s abrupt halt, he faces the camera while Rosencrantz and Guildenstern can still be seen clearly, yet Hamlet is also shown from different angles even though he is standing in one place. This unconventional method effectively creates discomfort for viewers to see so many angles and each different angle highlights different parts of his personality (angry in one shot and constrained in another) to show how complex this Hamlet is.

Yet despite his complexity, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern can follow Hamlet’s dialogue and walking pace. As Hamlet runs around for the whole scene, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern keep up. They chase after him when he says, “Shall we to th’ court?” (II.ii.262-263), they slowly walk up the stairs with him, and they stand still when he does before informing him of the players. To have a friend who acts out of the ordinary, and still manage to keep up with him, means that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have an ability to anticipate what Hamlet does, and that comes from being more than mere acquaintances or friends that do not know each other enough. This is not to say that they are not thrown off by the Dane’s unbalanced behavior, but they are able to go along with it, as if to amuse their friend before they can figure out why Hamlet is acting in such a way.

Also, the returning friends, unlike the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of Zeffirelli’s film, do not show reactions of nervousness or blatant fear when Hamlet asks if they were asked to visit him. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern could be competent liars in search of information for the king, but if this were the case, they would be able to find some way to evade giving Hamlet the complete truth that they were sent to monitor Hamlet. Though having brief looks of concerned, minor facial expressions, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are not too fazed by an angry Hamlet and Guildenstern responds to him with a guiltless tone in saying, “My lord, we were sent for” (II.ii.290).

Ultimately, instead of vehemently and persistently denying Hamlet’s claim, Guildenstern would rather tell his friend the truth than figure out some elaborate fib for the sake of Claudius. This further demonstrates the familiarity between the three characters, especially since they also speak in very close proximity to each other (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do not try to distance themselves when Hamlet is angry). The proximity also accentuates the fact that all three characters are central to this scene, because when Hamlet gives his speech at the end, all three characters can be seen. This is unlike in Stoppard’s film where Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are at far ends of a table, or in Zeffirelli’s film where the characters sit far apart and barely come near each other.

Whether from proximity and distance between each other, or other factors, each of these unique and modern versions of Hamlet deal differently with the individual character of Hamlet and his relationship with Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern. In doing so, the directors accomplish different goals and emphasize characters differently. This allows each film, with a mixture of elements, to tell the story of a world-weary prince and his reuniting with two people from his past, or, in the case of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern being main characters, it becomes the story of their reunion with a princely companion.

Sources

 Hamlet. Dir. Franco Zeffirelli. By William Shakespeare. Screenplay by Christopher De

Vore. Perf. Mel Gibson. Nelson Entertainment Icon Productions, 1990. DVD.

Hamlet. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. Screenplay by Kenneth Branagh. By William

Shakespeare. Perf. Kenneth Branagh. Shepperton Studios, 1996. YouTube.

Milovy, 16 Sept. 2007. Web. 28 Nov. 2011.

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jy6c4fpZyDw&gt;.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Dir. Tom Stoppard. Screenplay by Tom

Stoppard. Perf. Gary Oldman and Tim Roth. T. Schreiber Studio, 1990. YouTube. Hokubi, 6 Nov. 2009. Web. 28 Nov. 2011.

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZ6mdtq5oik&feature=related&gt;.

Shakespeare, William, and G. R. Hibbard. “Act II, Scene II.” Hamlet. Oxford: Oxford

UP, 2008. 215-23. Print.

Fight Club Analysis: The Liberating Tyler Durden and the Calamity of Project Mayhem

April 25th, 2012

On April 20th, 1999, two teenagers killed a teacher and twelve other students before taking their own lives in the infamous Columbine High School massacre. August 6th of that same year marked the release of David Fincher’s Fight Club.

Claudia Eller takes note of this in her Los Angeles Times article, “Controversy Could KO or Punch Up Fight Club”:

Despite some critics praising the film as a groundbreaking masterpiece, Fight Club is being released at a sensitive time… In the wake of the Columbine massacre and other violent outbreaks around the country… Fox executives are hoping audiences will look below the surface and connect with the film’s satirical, existential themes and overarching comment on the modern world and the dehumanizing influences of such things as consumerism. (Eller, pars. 2-4)

fight-club-1-182670Pink soap then became the film’s iconic marketing image as opposed to a more violent, bloodied picture. Still, with Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction paving the way earlier in the decade, Fight Club itself stays true to a postmodern, remorseless, and highly masculine take on movie violence. In James Craine and Stuart C. Aitken’s article, “Street Fighting: Placing the Crisis of Masculinity in David Fincher’s Fight Club,” they write that, “…the crisis of masculinity is in large part about the marginalization of men” (Craine and Aitken 289). Craine and Aitken acknowledge that Fight Club’s narrator echoes frustration over this emasculation through his vicarious life as Tyler Durden, who tears down the constructs of his feminine, corporate society. For Craine and Aitken, Tyler’s destructive desires and “transcendental“ projects come from the need for revenge on society.

I agree that revenge is prominent in Fight Club and Project Mayhem, but I disagree when in their article, Craine and Aitken say that this is what the “lust” of Fincher’s film is about (290). Revenge is evidently at the violent surface, but the deeper catharsis for these working-class men with their rebellious fighting and mayhem is the search for redemption, justice, and freedom in a society that ironically consumes them by turning them into consumers. Complete freedom is this “lust” while revenge—such as the “I felt like destroying something beautiful” mentality from Fight Club—is simply the manifestation of seeking this freedom. Fight Club is not a film about just power-hungry, vengeance-seeking “marginalized” men. In addition, Craine and Aitken claim that Fight Club evolves into a destructive movement with a greater purpose. This movement is Project Mayhem, and it enables transcendence for the unnamed narrator. However, the narrator makes valiant efforts in the film’s third act–such as hiding Marla and deactivating bombs—for the undoing of Tyler’s destructive plan and leading to the narrator’s ultimate separation from Tyler and the imagined persona’s Marx-like endeavors. This suggests that Project Mayhem’s greater purpose is a misguided one. Taking the Fight Club revolution too far into becoming Project Mayhem leads the narrator into a confrontation between his own personalities, ending with the acceptance of a middle ground that completes his character arch for the better.

At the start of this character arch, the narrator from Jim Uhls’ screenplay reluctantly sifts through his life, which consists of product recall and “single-serving friends.” Edward Norton’s narrator with the humdrum voice-overs is nobody special, yet at the same time he is the everyman.

Craine and Aitken’s article acknowledges these innumerable, underdog males of society:

The crisis of masculinity within Fight Club suggests that men seek reassurance that other men think misanthropic thoughts. The film gratifies repressed rage and resentment simmering underneath men’s civilized chassis—it is a fantasy for the bookish males of the world that, if tested physically, they might surprisingly triumph. The film is about the lust for revenge and the worst kind of masculinity. (290)

Movie-Screencaps-tyler-durden-26311831-1024-576These downtrodden men, as suggested, want victory through enacting revenge. They indulge in this vengeance-seeking attitude through the realization that other men feel the same; Craine and Aitken claim it is a common bond suggesting that revenge is okay if one is not alone in thinking so.

Here lies the cinematic echo of Friedrich Nietzsche’s herd ideas from The Gay Science:

Morality is herd instinct in the individual…throughout the longest era of humanity, there was nothing more frightful than feeling single. Being alone, perceiving as a single person, neither obeying nor ruling, constituting an individual…To be oneself…The inclination to do so would be perceive as madness, for being alone was bound up with every misery and every fear…the more unfreely one acted, the more that herd instinct rather than personal sense expressed itself in one’s action, the more moral one took oneself to be. (Nietzsche 138-9)

Nietzsche argues that following the community relinquishes individuality by enforcing the notion that morality comes from groupthink. Acting as a freethinking individual finds its equivalence in acting as an ignominious dissenter. Human evolution is a constant reminder that groups stick together and protect each other because they share common values. Even so, those in positions of power ultimately control thought. So for the powerless, white-collar workers in Uhls’ script, Tyler Durden says, “Advertisements have us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We are the middle children of history, with no purpose or place.” These men reach a boiling point, but the irony is that the members of Fight Club eventually create a new, proletarian-like herd after breaking from the herd mentality of their emasculating, consumer society.

This herd is still not seeking the mere revenge that Craine and Aitken argue for because it does not wreak vengeful havoc at random by bringing Fight Club to fruition. No guidance or secret, males-only homework assignments are needed if throwing adult tantrums is the sole purpose of the members. The men need Tyler Durden before Fight Club can even exist. This cues the hero-worshiping of Tyler Durden after he rounds up his sheepish crew. In his Chicago Sun-Times review of Fight Club, Roger Ebert acknowledges Pitt’s character as, “…a shadowy, charismatic figure, able to inspire a legion of men …” (Ebert 305). Durden becomes the messiah for the culturally emasculated. The male character most literally reduced to femininity, Robert “Bob” Paulson, refers to Tyler as “…a great man,” and later in the film, Tyler vehemently states his claim on Project Mayhem; “We’re not killing anyone, man, we’re setting them free.” Pitt’s character wears his philosophies on the sleeves of his flashy, red-leather jacket, making him undoubtedly direct in nature, yet Tyler never says, “We are getting our revenge.”  In fact, only once in Uhls’ script does the word “revenge” appear. Freedom is Tyler’s ultimate goal, but first the men—specifically the narrator—must find a certain kind of redemption.

fightclub000-714494Instead of Craine and Aitken’s argument for revenge is a need for this redemption, which manifests at the start of many brutal and voluntary beatings. From what could Edward Norton’s narrator, a white-collar employee with a strong case of insomnia, want redemption? The answer is his life—which he experiences dreary eyed at Xerox machines or with subliminal flashes of Tyler. This indicates that Norton’s character loses his mind to the dullness of his reality; sparks of a new reality, along with a surrogate personality, flicker in his dissociating mind. Until the spark of the narrator’s Tyler personality sets fire to his ostentatious apartment, his very existence is polluted with materialism over necessity. In a surreal and creative mise-en-scène walk-through of his apartment five minutes after the film’s start, the narrator exhibits his dwellings like a virtual furniture catalog, calling himself a, “slave to the Ikea-nesting syndrome.” This scene suggests that material objects define him. When this very apartment becomes the site of a seemingly random explosion, the ruinous setting symbolizes what happens in the narrator’s mind; his overindulgent, consumer subconscious throws itself away into the scattered rubble.fight-club

He then calls Tyler and begins a downgraded life, frequenting the basements of seedy bars and, as Craine and Aitken mention, living in a desolate, “…dilapidated house on a toxic waste site at the edge of town…” on Paper Street where the lights eerily flicker and the running water is as nauseating as the film’s yellowish-green color scheme (290). This setting also reflects the narrator’s newfound state of mind, which Craine and Aitken do not analyze. The house is always dark and in disarray, much like the narrator’s mind and hazy, double life. The setting is isolated and toxic, just as the narrator’s relationship with Tyler becomes. There is figurative meaning to this setting, just as Tyler is more than just a host to the newly homeless narrator. In his review, Ebert writes, “[The narrator] turns to Tyler for shelter…he gets more than that,” (305). As Tyler, the narrator destroys

his own apartment for redemption because material destruction is the instigating act of a man saving himself from the error of his corporately enslaved ways.

This idea of servitude to consumerist culture is why men join Fight Club, escaping from their regular routines. The men are all the same with, as Tyler says while the members encircle him and the camera follows his pacing, “all this potential…squandered…an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables – slaves with white collars…” The focus is on Tyler because his words embody the psyche of the generation of men around him: men who fight each other in an unattractive basement until blood spews and they bruise internally like the violence is a support group activity that brings catharsis. Tyler the Messiah lays out his Fight Club commandments and illuminates the injustices of society. The camera zooms in on only Tyler’s close-up while he plays directly with the emotions of the crowd saying, “We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. We’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” This cinematography suggests that all attention is on Tyler, without showing other’s reactions, because he speaks for the group. He is not only speaking from the narrator’s subconscious, but for everyone else’s as well. Members then beat each other, fighting what they each represent: the slavery. This is justice. The next step is freedom, where Tyler Durden is Nietzsche’s ideal man from The Gay Science.

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In section 283 of The Gay Science, Nietzsche elaborates on his concept of the “Overman,” discussing how an “Overman” should live:

…This requires many preparatory, brave human beings, who certainly cannot arise from nothing…who have an inner penchant for seeking in all things what is to be overcome in them…more endangered human beings…happier human beings! For, believe me, the secret to reaping the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment from existence is to live dangerously! …Send your ships into unexplored seas! …Be robbers and conquerors so long as you cannot be rulers or possessors, you knowing ones! (143)

Taking chances, being a leader, and lacking a fear of death, loss, or self-analysis are essential for an “Overman.” Society should not predetermine the life of the individual. Life is a waste without experiences of merit, so “living dangerously” is the subtext to Uhls’ script whenever Tyler says, “How much can you know about yourself if youve never been in a fight? I don’t want to die without any scars,” or, “God Damn! We just had a near-life experience, fellas.” This “Overman” is Tyler, free in every way and ambitious without being driven by any Christian morals or notions.  Ebert’s attacks the violence of Fight Club in his review, but summarizes Nietzsche’s philosophical influence in saying Fight Club is, “…a secret society of men who meet in order to find freedom and self-realization…” (305). In this way, freedom lies in finally becoming what one always hoped for. This is especially exemplified in the scene where the narrator realizes that him and Tyler Durden are one person.tumblr_mm1g7jLFY71r3gb6ao1_500

In this Fight Club scene, Pitt’s Tyler tells Norton’s narrator, “You were looking for a way to change your life. You could not do this on your own. All the ways you wish you could be, that’s me. I look like you want to look, I fuck like you want to fuck, I am smart, capable, and most importantly, I am free in all the ways that you are not.” They face each other in this twisted encounter where the narrator is actually confronting himself while the Dust Brother’s score plays subtly beneath the dialogue, mocking at the narrator’s state of mind and oncoming, head-spinning blackout. In discussing this scene, Craine and Aitken refer to Tyler as, “…the insane ideal ego of the liberal existential subject…” (292). Tyler is this “ideal ego,” but all of his actions come with logic and stem from the narrator’s own subconscious, which rationalizes Tyler as the fulfiller of all that lacks in the narrator’s life. Tyler merely has a strong sense of freedom and complete lack of restraint. When accused of insanity in Fight Club, Tyler wittingly retorts, “No, you’re insane.”

Tyler states these claims on being freer than the narrator, yet Craine and Aitken still refer to Tyler’s efforts as revenge-driven. Specifically, the two turn attention toward Project Mayhem, calling it a revenge mission of sorts by saying, “Project Mayhem is [the narrator’s] revenge, an avenue for anger at a system that contrives, and is contrived by, patriarchally-based hegemonic masculinity,” (293). Craine and Aitken argue that Project Mayhem is, “…more purposeful…escalating mischief…a finale of spectacular urban violence that…fosters a return of the sense of individual power lost to men through their marginalization in society,” (289). I disagree. Project Mayhem does not serve a higher purpose. What does it accomplish? The narrator, in fact, tries to undo the tangled mess of potential damage of Project Mayhem. Project Mayhem is now the Fight Club evolution taken too far.

fightclubCraine and Aitken suggest that this use of extravagant, “…spectacularization of violence” allows the narrator “to transcend…limitations” (291). I agree that Project Mayhem is extreme, since it vanquishes credit scores and gets members killed, but it is not a positive undertaking for the narrator. The only positive outcome of Project Mayhem is that the narrator realizes the absurdity of it and ultimately rejects Tyler. Norton’s character does dissolve habit and break away from his mundane, daily routine, which Craine and Atiken acknowledge, but this does not mean that he transcends because the narrator does not fully become Tyler. By the end of the film, when the financial towers crumble and in the unconventional romance of Fight Club, Edward Norton’s narrator ends up with Helena Bonham Carter’s Marla, the narrator finds an area of compromise in himself. The narrator is not the same man from the start of the film, nor is he at the extreme of being Tyler Durden.

Jean-Paul Sartre, in his Freedom and Responsibility section of Being and Nothingness, explains this:

…Man being condemned to be free carries the weight of the world on his shoulders; he is responsible for the world and for himself as a way of being…Anyway you look at it, it is a matter of choice…to live this…is to choose myself through it and to choose it through my choice of myself…if it is going to be four empty years, then it is I who bear the responsibility of this. (Sartre 252-4)

If Tyler Durden embodies the ideas of Nietzsche, then here, the narrator exemplifies Sartre.

Tyler SplicedThis Sartre passage suggests that responsibility for freedom is a demanding choice and one is equally as responsible for that choice itself. Applied to the narrator, this means that he cannot continue living a vicarious life through Tyler Durden because he must acknowledge that he is responsible for his own actions. If one considers Tyler’s assignments as levels of a 12-step, support-group program, Project Mayhem should not be the narrator’s the final step toward an ultimate goal. In actuality, he tries separating himself from Tyler’s unconventional therapy as much as he can by the film’s end, leading to a climactic pseudo-suicide as a last resort. The narrator returns to reality without Tyler Durden: a reality that is not filled with a hyper-surreal world of violence and a foggy sense of insomnia.

Fight Club is not a revenge film, nor is it a film that says, “Be someone else and do anything at all.” Fight Club is about fully being oneself, unconsumed by other external factors, and living freely in each of life’s moments, with full consciousness of that choice. There are consequences to actions and avoiding responsibilities, and Fight Club ends with that reminder. Uhls ends Fight Club with a punch line when the narrator, with his bleeding cheek, raspy voice, and hand reaching out for Marla, says to her, “You met me at a very strange time in my life,” while Fincher has the pair stare off into an evening of destruction, signifying Tyler’s last word for society. Likewise, when the film reel, like one of Tyler’s part-time-job tricks, shows signs of needing a projector change preceding an unexpected, obscene flash, the audience is left wondering whether or not the influence of Tyler Durden ever really dies. Then, in the perfectly appropriate Pixies song, “Where is my mind?” Black Francis sings, “Your head will collapse/but there’s nothing in it/and you’ll ask yourself/where is my mind?” The narrator rids the presence of Tyler from his subconscious, but these lyrics in Fight Club’s finale suggest questioning where Tyler disappears to, if he is still lurking in the crevices of the narrator’s mind, and if he will ever make an unconscious return.

Thank you for reading! If you have a few extra minutes, please check out the link for a film I’m working on.

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Sources

Craine, James, and Stuart C. Aitken. “Street Fighting: Placing the Crisis of Masculinity in David “Fincher’s Fight Club.” GeoJournal 59.4 (2004): 289-96. JSTOR. Web. 25 Mar. 2012. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/41147853?origin=JSTOR-pdf&gt;.

Ebert, Roger. Fight Club. 1999. Writing in the Works. 3rd ed. Boston: Wadsworth Pub, 2012. 304-06. Print.

Eller, Claudia. “Controversy Could KO or Punch Up ‘Fight Club'” Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles Times, 15 Oct. 1999. Web. 2 Apr. 2012. <http://articles.latimes.com/1999/oct/15/business/fi-22483&gt;.

Fight Club. Dir. David Fincher. Screenplay by Jim Uhls. By Chuck Palahniuk. Prod. Ross G. Bell, Ceán Chaffin, and Art Linson. Perf. Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. 20th Century Fox, 1999. DVD.

Francis, Black. “Where Is My Mind?” By Black Francis. Perf. Kim Deal, David Lovering, Joey Santiago, and Black Francis. Rec. 1987. Surfer Rosa. Pixies. Steve Albini, 1988. MP3.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science. 1882. Existentialism: Basic Writings. By Charles B. Guignon and Derk Pereboom. 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1995. 123-71. Print.

Pulp Fiction. Dir. Quentin Tarantino. Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino. Prod. Danny DeVito and Lawrence Bender. Perf. John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson. Miramax Films, 1994. DVD.

Reservoir Dogs. Dir. Quentin Tarantino. Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino. Prod. Lawrence Bender. Perf. Tim Roth and Harvey Keitel. Miramax Films, 1992. DVD.

Sartre, Jean. “Being and Nothingness.” 1943. Existentialism: Basic Writings. By Charles B. Guignon and Derk Pereboom. 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2001. 352-53. Print.

Iron Man 3 Review

IRON MAN 3

Iron Man is my favorite superhero and Tony Star’s return definitely did not disappoint. The film is everything one hopes for out of a Shane Black, Robert Downey Jr. reunion. Another plus, this film is just called Iron Man 3. Not Iron Man 3 followed by a colon and some obnoxious line. Take note, sequel writers.

OVERALL RATING: 3.5/4

Cinematography

Robert Downey Jr. has impeccable timing, both in line delivery and physicality. That requires camerawork that hits those marks with him, and I could write an entire review about the greatest rack focus shot in the history of rack focus shots. This is when the focus switches from a record player to Tony Stark seductively dancing. Just like that, John Toll became one of my favorite directors of photography.

John Toll doin' his dolly thing on the set of The Thin Red Line

John Toll doin’ his dolly thing on the set of The Thin Red Line

Toll has a diverse style. He can probably figure out the cinematography for any genre based on his variety of work so far. His films include Almost Famous, Braveheart, Tropic Thunder, The Thin Red Line, Gone Baby Gone, Adjustment Bureau, Cloud Atlas and even It’s Complicated. Fun fact, he is also the cinematographer for Breaking Bad’s pilot episode. What a guy, right?

Acting

The old: Legend has it that when Robert Downey Jr. was born, Stan Lee held him like Rafiki held Simba over a cliff in The Lion King. Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark. Tony Stark is Robert Downey Jr. Everybody knows this. It’s a law of the universe. You know you love it when Tony summons his suit with his smart-guy Jedi powers now too.

Paul Bettany, who voices Jarvis, has so much comedic timing for his role. This is the most underrated performance in the trilogy. His robotic sass and nonchalance is perfect. You keep doing you, Jarvis.

Stan Lee with a young Robert Downey Jr.

Stan Lee with a young Robert Downey Jr.

Likewise, it’s great seeing Jon Favreau in a somewhat larger role. Pepper shows off her badass side that even throws Tony off guard and Rhodey can’t even keep a password a secret from Tony. Someone send these three on a vacation.

The New: Ty Simpkins plays Harley, Tony’s newfound partner in crime. This kid is a great actor who can hold his own with Downey Jr. Not a lot of adult actors even say they pull that off.

The re-generating characters became a little cliché, but this is a comic-book action movie so that’s what it needs. Honestly, I wanted one of them to regenerate and say, “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”

Without giving anything away, Ben Kingsley’s performance did not sell me until halfway through the film. You hate Guy Pearce the entire time. Even when you should feel bad for him, you hate him. He’s that annoying nerd who gets too much power, like in The Social Network when Rooney Mara tells Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg “…you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.”

Directing 

Shane Black is cooler than you

Shane Black is cooler than you

Shane Black and Robert Downey Jr. cannot get it wrong when working together. Black, new to directing a Marvel film, knows exactly which character needs screen time devoted to them and when. Because of this, the story never lags. This was the problem with Iron Man 2, where too many characters played by talented actors did not fit seamlessly into the story. Iron Man 3 corrects that mistake, creating a better flow.

Writing

Shane Black has the gift of screenplay dialogue and structure and the biggest shame is how underrated he is. I haven’t quoted an action movie right after leaving the theatre this much since Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. His character duos, such as in Lethal Weapon, always come with the right dynamic and this man gets voiceovers right when so, so many get it wrong. He knows how to make voiceovers important to a story rather than a cop-out for actually showing it. If you don’t believe me, see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang right now. Literally go watch it right now because if you haven’t seen it, then there’s a huge, cinematic hole in your life.

Fun fact: Black’s incorporation of Christmas in his screenplays inspired one of the greatest, well-structured action films ever, Die Hard. THANK YOU! Black is a motivated writer who sticks to the Christmas setting in his films for good reason. In this great article, Black explains why Christmas figures so prominently into his stories and how Harley represents a Christmas Carol-like ghost of Tony Stark’s past. If you don’t think these reasons are a cool way to tell a story then I don’t know you, bye.

Score

I thought my perfect half-Iranian Ramin Djawadi, worked on Iron Man 3, but I guess I was wrong. He did work on Iron Man though. Anyways, Brian Tyler does an amazing job with the music and I feel like a bad person for not giving him enough credit. Recently working with a musician myself for the first time in scoring a film, I realize how important they are to completing the movie. Those actions sequences, as elaborate as they are, may not entertain in the slightest without the work that Brian Tyler adds to the film. He hits those cues perfectly too. Even if you know where they story ends up, Tyler does a great job building the tension and keeping an audience invested in the scene.

Easter Egg

Looks like Robert found a friend to help him deal with all that anxiety. Even better news… Tony Stark will be back.

And those end credits were pretty damn cool and nostalgic for the last 5 years.

Jurassic Park 3D Re-Release

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Visually, Jurassic Park is one of the most incredible films ever made with an entertaining 3D re-release. The lighting, from projectors to headlights or flashlights, makes the film as aesthetically badass as a theme park of dinosaur clones. Camerawork, more than the plot itself, draws the audience in. Every shot motivates pulling attention somewhere. I loved it. I’ll watch it again, and more times after that.

OVERALL RATING: 3/4

Cinematography

Jeff Goldblum shinging bright like a diamond.

Jeff Goldblum shining bright like a diamond.

Nerdy filmmaker joke of the day: the dinosaurs aren’t the only ones drawn to the lights in Jurassic ParkDean Cundey is an amazing cinematographer when it comes to motivating light. Those turns of the camera, or slide-ins to perfect close-ups, couldn’t get any better. That one shot, where Sam Niell gets in the car then leaves after Tim bugs him is so simple yet so impressive.

While Cundey’s recent films are not up to par with his pre-2000s filmography, I appreciate the people who have variety in their cinematic careers. He even worked on Apollo 13Jurassic Park, and The Parent Trap in the same decade. As one of my favorite filmmakers, David Fincher, said, “Don’t be so pretentious that you think everything you make is ‘important.’ There’s room in this world for popcorn fiction and movies that are exactly the sum of their parts.” If nothing Cundey does in the future measures up to Jurassic Park, then fine, because that doesn’t change the fact that he’s still the guy who directed photography on Jurassic ParkThe Thing, and the Back to the Future trilogy.

Acting

Sam Neill is a loveable jerk and his partnering with a couple of kids is perfect because, well, at the start of the film he hates them. What better way for developing a character that can’t stand know-it-all kids then to throw them into some contained, jungle death trap together? Don’t those moments they watch giant dinosaurs attack tiny dinosaurs just tug at your heartstrings? The real bonding moment: finding out Tim’s dad didn’t build him a tree house either.

Work it, gurl.

Work it, gurl.

Jeff Goldblum’s the major source of comedic relief.  He’s the guy you want around when the prehistoric party gets a little too crazy. He knows how to break a leg and still partaaay, am I right? He’s loveable, he’s annoying, and he’s a great backseat driver.

Side note, let’s all take a moment of silence for Samuel L. Jackson.

K moving on…

Directing

I respect Spielberg for taking such insane concepts and making them incredibly believable. His job is selling the story and he always does. Another great Spielberg trademark is his lighting. Sure, that is all for the director of photography, but Spielberg works with different cinematographers (notably Kaminski), yet that light always streams through a room beautifully for any of his films. It illuminates people in a way that real life probably never does, which shows that no matter who is DP is, Spielberg should get a lot of credit for that as well. He also knows when there are some great kid actors lurking around. I don’t know what he’s putting in their candy but somehow… thespians! That man is the Willy Wonka for child actors. Did that make sense?

Writing

I’ll give it to Jurassic Park for a perfect blend of suspense and comedic timing, but apparently everything in Jurassic Park, while deadly, is also convenient enough for an escape. So don’t worry, you may get electrocuted at 10,000 volts and bleed out of your ears, but everything will be okay. The foreshadowing is so subtle and purposeful I could cry tears of joy, like Dr. Alan Grant’s buckling his seatbelt foreshadowing how the species later mutates like frogs. Still, remind me where major plants in the story went? No, I’m not talking about the plants that those “vegietarian” dinosaurs love eating, I mean that creepy embryo thing didn’t all go to waste now did it? Does this mean I need to see the other films? I mean I will, but I heard they’re not good so….

Score

Can we talk about John Williams? Look at what this man is musically responsible for: Star Wars, the Indiana Jones films, Jaws, Superman, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln, E.T., Schindler’s List, War Horse, Harry Potter, Catch Me If You Can, and Home Alone.

How does someone have this much talent? Do you think he has his soundtracks on his iTunes and listens to them when he wants to pretend he’s Indiana Jones on a horse with Lincoln fighting sharks from Superman’s galaxy far, far away, that can’t find their way home from a theme park in Nazi Germany until a bunch of bank-fraud, DiCaprio-Clone burglars show up then everything turns into this civil war which leads to this world war and Tom Hanks shows up telling him, “You’re a wizard, Harry,” but he’s like, “no, I’m John Williams and you’re welcome.” Like I just did there, he knows what building suspense is like, except he does it with music so that’s a lot cooler. His score tells you a story in itself, also like I just did because do you not get the point I’m making? There’s never a dull moment, even when things calm down. He has five Academy awards. This guy is amazing.