Tag Archives: batman begins

Top 10: Christopher Nolan Movie Moments

Christopher Nolan is, to my mind, the best director working today, and the best of this generation.  I’ve written before about the power of his ending scenes, but today WatchMojo has put together a pretty solid pre-Dunkirk list of the best scenes from Nolan’s first nine films.  There’s no word yet on what the next project from the genius will be, but most directors go through their whole careers without putting together a series of moments that Nolan has in his first 10 features.  What’s criminal is that he’s never even been nominated for a Best Director Oscar, something that hopefully the Academy rectifies when nominations are announced for the 2018 Oscars tomorrow morning.Christian Bale and Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

Top 10: Saddest Superhero Movie Deaths

 

For comic book characters, death isn’t quite the final condition it is for the rest of us.  It’s more of an annoying flu that sidelines them for a few years at most before they find a way to kick it.  WatchMojo has put together a list of the 10 saddest superhero deaths in which the condition stuck (it also included supporting characters on the list, and given the subject matter it goes without saying that this is a SPOILER intensive list.

Most of the entries come from films outside the MCU and DCEU, both of which have been pretty merciful to characters so far (unless they were underdeveloped villains).  I have a feeling that the MCU’s mercy, at least, is going to change with Avengers 3 & 4 in a big way, but most of the entries on this list come from X-Men, Spider-Man, and pre-DCEU Batman installments.  While I agree with a lot of the choices (and the rule that no one resurrected should be included), choosing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 or X-Men: Apocalypse over Watchmen struck me as a particularly grievous oversight.  I definitely agree with #1, but I think there should be two entrants from Logan on the list.  What traumas did you find left out?  Let’s grieve together, people!

Alfred Molina in Spider-Man 2

Christian Bale’s 10 Best Movies

Christian Bale
Batman, Christian Bale, The Dark Knight

Christian Bale’s career is already entering its fourth decade of excellence.  The actor, whose first starring role was in 1987 in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun at age 13, already has a career’s worth of outstanding roles and an Oscar for his performance in David O. Russell’s The Fighter.  For most, Bale is the definitive Batman in the definitive super hero trilogy: Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy.  Nolan and Bale put a stamp on Batman that others will be living up to as long as the character exists.  Bale also teamed with Nolan in The Prestige and with Russell again in American Hustle for wildly different roles in two outstanding films.  Bale is an intense, character-driven actor who has twice lost massive amounts of weight (Rescue Dawn & The Mechanic) for roles.  Bale gained 109 lbs for Batman Begins after losing 63 lbs for The Machinist. Bale went from 121 lbs to 230 lbs in only six months which overshot what Chris Nolan wanted for his Batman, so by the time filming began, Christian Bale had dropped to 190 lbs. For Vice, Bale did the reverse and gained over 40 lbs. to play former Vice-President Dick Cheney. The dedication paid off, and Bale continues to be one of the most dynamic actors working today.

Christian Bale’s Best 10
1. The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012) Bruce Wayne/Batman
2. The Prestige (2006) Alfred Borden
3. 3:10 to Yuma (2007) Dan Evans
4. American Hustle (2013) Irving Rosenfeld
5. The Fighter (2010) Dicky Eklund
6. The Big Short (2015) Michael Burry
7. Henry V (1989) Robin
8. Rescue Dawn (2006) Dieter Dengler
9. Empire of the Sun (1987) Jim
10. Little Women (1994) Laurie
Honorable MentionEquilibrium (2002) John Preston

Continue reading Christian Bale’s 10 Best Movies

Morgan Freeman’s Latest 10 Movies vs. Greatest 10 Movies

Morgan Freeman
Latest vs. Greatest looks at directors, actors, actresses, screenwriters and composers to assess the state of their career as it stands.  We’ll look back at the latest 10 movies the artist has done, rate them and then average them out to see where they stand today.  We’ll also rank their 10 greatest movies and give them the same treatment to compare what they have been doing to their very best work.  (A quick side-note: if an artist is/has been a regular on a TV show we’ll also grade the seasons individually; artists need 10 projects to qualify).

With all due respect to James Earl Jones, I believe that Morgan Freeman has passed him for BEST VOICE EVER.  Freeman’s deep tones, dripping with gravitas are welcome whether they’re narrating a VISA commercial, the plight of penguins in the Arctic or from his mouth as continues to be one of the best actors in modern cinema.Morgan Freeman, The Electric CompanyFreeman got his start in features late, working primarily on TV since his first job in 1964 on Another World through the 1970s, appearing on a number of programs, but most famously and endearing to those of my generation, Freeman was a part of the cast of one of the most original children’s educational programs ever filmed: The Electric Company.  Freeman would stay with the show from 1971-1977.Lean on Me, Morgan FreemanHis transition to the big screen really didn’t begin (though had appeared in the odd film) until the very end of the 1980’s when Freeman was over fifty!  He received his first Oscar nomination of six for Street Smart in 1987.  He appeared in 1988’s powerful Clean and Sober and then in 1989 exploded.  He was the powerful principal cleaning up the impossible school in Lean on Me.  He was the wise voice of reason for the men of the 54th Massachusetts in, what I believe, is the best film made about the Civil War: Glory.  Most famously, though, he was Hoke, the driver in Driving Miss Daisy.  Freeman was nominated for another Oscar and the film took Best Picture.Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman, Driving Miss DaisyAfter playing my favorite addition to the wildly campy Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (He’s Robin’s Muslim sidekick from the Crusades just like in the book….hmmm..what?…. the heck you say?  Next you’ll be telling me that there’s no crazy witch and Robin Hood is NOT from Iowa?  Ok, now I’m just confused).Morgan Freeman, Kevin Costner, Robin Hood Prince of ThievesFreeman in 1992 participated (and was robbed of a nomination for) the greatest Western in modern times: Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven.  As Bill Munny’s best friend and conscience, his vicious end (spoiler) in many ways strips Eastwood’s character of his remaining shackles of morality and brings the film to its bloody climax.  Gene Hackman gets all the plaudits for that film, but Freeman was just as integral a part of the ensemble.
Unforgiven, Morgan FreemanThe IMDB 250 lists 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption as the greatest motion picture of all time.  I don’t know that I’d put it at the very top….but I wouldn’t have it far from it.  Coming out the same year the Forrest Gump-fever took the nation, Shawshank was unfortunately overlooked for most awards (though Freeman did get another Oscar nomination).  In the 20 years since, though, Shawshank has grown in prestige and popularity until it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t list this tale of friendship and hope in the most brutal of places among their favorite films.  This is my favorite Freeman performance.  When I think of his body of work, the first character of his that comes to mind is Red, either throwing the ball in the yard or walking down the beach at the film’s end.
Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank RedemptionIn the following few years, Freeman would co-star with Brad Pitt in the chilling film that made David Fincher’s name: S7ven, the very underrated pandemic film Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman and co-star in Steven Spielberg’s flawed but still-powerful Amistad.
Amistad, Morgan FreemanThen from 1998 – 2005, Morgan Freeman hit a bit of a slump, appearing in a string of average movies.  He tried to launch a franchise off of James Patterson’s Alex Cross books that had mixed results.  He put in a great performance in a REALLY messed up movie: Nurse Betty, that probably should have earned him another Oscar nod.  Then he just did some he probably wishes he could take back (Sum of All Fears, Bruce Almighty, Dreamcatcher, etc.)
Million Dollar Baby, Morgan FreemanFreeman’s fifth Oscar nomination was the charm and remains the only win he’s ever had (criminally, he’s never won Best Actor) picking up a win for Best Supporting Actor in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby.  I have major issues with this film.  I think I outlined most of them in Clint Eastwood’s profile and you can check them out there, but I do NOT have any problems with Morgan Freeman.  I don’t think I have EVER had a problem with a performance from Morgan Freeman – even in a bad movie.  He elevates everything he’s in by his mere presence in it.  That’s how you can tell the great ones from the merely good.  He makes everything and everyone around him better just by his presence.
Batman Begins, Morgan Freeman, Christian BaleA perfect example of Freeman raising an ensemble is his participation in Christopher Nolan’s peerless Dark Knight Trilogy.  They could have gotten a lot of actors to play Lucius Fox (Batman’s Q, more or less), but sticking Freeman in the part gave it what Freeman always gives everything: gravitas.  Nolan strived to make Dark Knight as realistic as possible and as grounded as possible and wisely casting Freeman in a minor, but memorable and pivotal role in all three films was a masterstroke.
The Dark Knight, Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman’s latest Oscar nomination was in 2008 for his portrayal of former South African President Nelson Mandela in Clint Eastwood’s Invictus.  So few (and I haven’t seen Idris Elba’s take yet so I can’t compare) could even step into the shoes of one of the most revered men in modern times and make you forget that an actor is playing him, but Freeman pulls off the feat effortlessly.  It’s one of my favorite performances he’s given.

Which brings us to Freeman’s 10 latest films:
FREEMAN’S LATEST TEN:
1. Transcendence (2014)……………………..5.50
2. The LEGO Movie (2014)…………………10.00
3. Last Vegas (2013)………………………………6.75
4. Now You See Me (2013)…………………..9.25
5. Oblivion (2013)………………………………….7.50
6. Olympus Has Fallen (2013)……………..3.75
7. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)……….10.00
8. The Magic of Belle Isle (2012)…………7.75
9. A Dolphin Tale (2011)……………………….6.75
10.  RED (2010)………………………………………8.50
FREEMAN’S CURRENT AVERAGE: 7.575
SECOND HIGHEST LATEST AVERAGE FOR ACTORS
Glory, Morgan Freeman
Freeman’s done a lot of fun but forgettable movies lately (Magic of Belle Isle, Last Vegas, Oblivion) mixed with the conclusion of The Dark Knight Trilogy, his hilarious voice work in this year’s The LEGO Movie and last year’s underrated and tons-of-fun Now You See Me.  His average is the second highest (behind Robert Downey Jr.) of the actors we’ve examined and I think that’s certainly an offshoot of what I was talking about earlier.  Freeman raises average films to good, good to really good and really good to great.
Freeman, Now You See Me

FREEMAN’S GREATEST TEN
1. The Dark Knight (2008)……………………..10.00
2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)..10.00
3. Unforgiven (1992)……………………………….10.00
4. Glory (1989)………………………………………….10.00
5. Batman Begins (2005)…………………………10.00
6. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)……………10.00
7. The LEGO Movie (2014)……………………..10.00
8. Amistad (1997)………………………………………..9.25
9. Now You See Me (2013)………………………..9.25
10. Driving Miss Daisy (1989) ………………….9.00
FREEMAN’S GREATEST AVERAGE: 9.750
SECOND HIGHEST GREATEST AVERAGE FOR ACTORS
Freeman’s career score is also the second-highest (Tom Hanks) of any actor profiled yet, which is astounding when you consider that his career started so late.  You could argue about the order, but that Freeman has at least 10 films of darn near perfect quality is undeniable from his resume.Lego-Movie-Morgan-Freeman-ImageFreeman will next star with Scarlet Johansson in Lucy later this month and has The Last Knights and We the People also on his 2014 plate before he returns to the one really bad movie he’s made in the last ten, Olympus Has Fallen, for its sequel: London Has Fallen (whyyyyy?).

Many actors are very good.  Many actors show flashes of greatness from time-to-time.  I don’t think there’s anyone in Hollywood who brings more to the table by his mere presence than Morgan Freeman. He’s still working like a young man, too, so I wouldn’t count out the possibility of a few more perfect 10’s from Mr. Freeman.  In a relatively short career, he’s turned in indelible performances in classic films that will live on long after all of us are gone.
Morgan Freeman

Hans Zimmer’s Latest 10 Movies vs. Greatest 10 Movies

Hans Zimmer
Latest vs. Greatest looks at directors, actors, actresses, screenwriters and composers to assess the state of their career as it stands.  We’ll look back at the latest 10 movies the artist has done, rate them and then average them out to see where they stand today.  We’ll also rank their 10 greatest movies and give them the same treatment to compare what they have been doing to their very best work.  (A quick side-note: if an artist is/has been a regular on a TV show we’ll also grade the seasons individually; artists need 10 projects to qualify).

If John Williams is the greatest movie score composer of all-time (and I believe he is), Hans Zimmer is the best composer working TODAY.  Williams, while still amazing, is past his prime, while Zimmer is getting better and better after 30 years composing films.  He’s also probably the only other film composer most movie fans can name after John Williams and that “guy who did Lord of the Rings”.  Zimmer has composed some of the best music that has accompanied film, overcoming an early reputation as a bit of a diva and “action film only” composer.  He’s only won one Oscar (in 1995 for The Lion King) out of his nine nominations, but he certainly has deserved to win several more.  Not bad for a guy who used to be in The Buggles and brought us “Video Killed the Radio Star”.  Oh, didn’t think I’d know that, Hans.  I research.

Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Rain Man

After having composed movie scores since 1984, Zimmer’s career got a major boost in the arm when he composed the scores for two Best Picture winners in a row: 1988’s Rain Man and 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy.  For Zimmer haters, and we’ll get to you too, here’s an example of two nuanced scores that show Zimmer’s talent.  Let’s move on to the 1990’s though when Zimmer’s name got latched on to action movie-dom.

Backdraft, Kurt Russell

Backdraft, as near as I can tell from looking at his filmography is where the “Media Ventures” style of action movie composing comes in to play.  Zimmer, agree with it or not, has come under fire for composing scores that could conceivably be interchanged with one another.  For example, you could use The Rock’s score for Crimson Tide or King Arthur’s score for The Last Samurai.  I don’t agree, but the fact that he started a company called Media Ventures and groomed composers like Nick Glennie-Smith and Hengry Gregson-Williams to compose in his “style”, doesn’t really help his case.  The most notorious example of this actually came back to bite him big time, but we’ll have to wait for Pirates for that story.

The Lion King

The flip side to the argument is, during the midst of all of this, Hans Zimmer won his only Oscar for the very non-actiony, very unique score to Disney’s The Lion King.  Zimmer often does animation scores, his other outstanding one I would note is 1998’s The Prince of Egypt.  Zimmer also composed A League of Their Own, As Good as It Gets, The Thin Red Line and Matchstick Men during this period.  It wasn’t all action films, and it isn’t now, but people who criticize the group of composers known as “The Cult of Zimmer” have enough of Hans’ ego plus circumstance to make a case.

Russell Crowe, Gladiator, Maximus

Several Zimmer scores have transcended the film buff crowd into the realm of popular music.  This has been the case with both Inception and The Dark Knight Trilogy, as well as Pirates, but the original bust-out hit for Zimmer was Gladiator.  Zimmer’s pounding rhythms paired with the vocals of Lisa Gerrard (with whom he’s collaborated several more times) put Gladiator’s soundtrack onto the Billboard charts and gave Zimmer another best picture-winning soundtrack.

Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Johnny Depp, Captain Jack Sparrow

After stellar scores for Black Hawk Down, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (maybe Zimmer’s most overlooked jewel) and The Last Samurai, we get to his ego’s biggest boo boo: Pirates of the Caribbean.  Pirates has one of the most iconic scores of any movie in the last quarter century and the first movie was, of course, scored by ….Klaus Badelt?  Really?  Klaus Badelt?  Noooo.  Not really.  Zimmer scored the film, but due to some obscure copyright issue too arcane to break down owing to his Media Ventures cult, Zimmer had Badelt put his name on the score.  Oops.  It’s one of the best scores Zimmer’s ever done, but I refuse to count Curse of the Black Pearl because Zimmer was just THAT stupid in how he handled it (even denying for years it was him that had composed the music).  Dead Man’s Chest has a much less rousing score, though a gorgeous motif for Davy Jones.  At World’s End demonstrates the precise reason why I separate the score of the score from the score of the movie.  As a movie, At World’s End is one of the worst franchise films I’ve ever seen.  As a score, it’s one of Zimmer’s best.  It’s even better than the first Pirates score.  It melds the classic themes with new in a gloriously epic effort that deserved a better movie (Zimmer recently also did this to a lesser extent with The Lone Ranger.  Great scores can come from crap films and At World’s End is one of the best.

The Dark Knight Trilogy

Co-composers on a project nearly never works, but in the case of The Dark Knight trilogy, having Zimmer paired with James Newton Howard was just the right move.  Howard is extremely good at bridges (he’s done a lot of TV work including composing the theme to ER).  Zimmer excels at thematic work.  Melding those two strengths gave us a new Batman theme to rival Danny Elfman’s, which did not seem even feasible.  The Dark Knight took a very revolutionary approach to the Joker.  Instead of giving him a Darth Vaderesque march to match the Dark Knight’s, Zimmer used this twisting, increasingly shrill violin spiral that climbed insided your head and disturbed you, setting the stage for Heath Ledger’s brilliant performance.  The Dark Knight Rises was Zimmer’s alone and incorporated an awesome chant for Bane as well as wrapping his three-film opus with the track “Rise”, one of the best finales in modern movie music.

Inception, Cobb, Leonardo DiCaprio

As good as all of Zimmer’s other scores are, and they’ve been getting increasingly complex and better, nothing has (or perhaps ever will) top his magnum opus: Inception.  Utilizing all of Zimmer’s tropes, including his pioneering use of electric guitar melded with symphonic work, Inception is by turns a pounding, unrelenting  Zimmer action classic and a nuanced, quiet heart-breaker.  For all of the film’s action cues, it ends with a four-minute piano piece called “Time” that is among the best pieces he’s composed.  Zimmer’s pairing with Nolan has been magic for both, but this -as of now-is the pinnacle of both of their careers.

Man of Steel 3

It wasn’t enough that Zimmer had redefined how Batman sounded to audiences, he then went and took on the big daddy of super hero themes: John Williams’ Superman.  Acknowledging, and rightly so, that any attempt to ape it would be a disservice to both efforts, Zimmer came up with perhaps his most layered and brilliantly nuanced score.  A simple piano theme for Clark that builds into a speaker-busting fanfare for Superman.  Man of Steel is a controversial film, but I don’t think the music is up for debate even among the film’s detractors.

Let’s check out Zimmer’s last 10 film’s and get his Latest score.  Remember composers are unique in that it’s their SCORE that is rated and not the quality of the movie:

ZIMMER’S LATEST TEN:
1. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)………5.00
2. Winter’s Tale (2014)………………………………….4.50
3. Son of God (2014)……………………………………….7.75
4. Rush (2013)…………………………………………………..8.75
5. 12 Years A Slave (2013)……………………………6.50
6. Last Love (2013)…………………………………………..7.00
7. The Lone Ranger (2013)……………………………9.50
8. Man of Steel (2013)………………………………….10.00
9. The Bible Mini-Series (2013)…………………..8.00
10. The Dark Kight Rises (2012)………………….9.75
ZIMMER’S CURRENT AVERAGE: 7.875

Arnie Hammer, Johnny Depp, The Lone Ranger

 

Zimmer works a LOT.  He typically does 3-4 films a year and a 7.875 isn’t a bad batting average for someone with the volume of work he’s producing.  I was disappointed that he couldn’t do for Spider-Man what he’d done for Batman and Superman, but maybe he should just stay in DCU sandbox.  Let’s look at his greatest scores:

ZIMMER’S  GREATEST TEN
1. Inception (2011)……………………………..10.00
2. The Dark Knight (2008)…………………10.00*
3. Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (2006)..10.00
4. Batman Begins (2005)…………………….10.00*
5. Man of Steel (2013)…………………………10.00
6. Gladiator (2000)……………………………….10.00
7. Backdraft (1991)………………………………10.00
8. The Rock (1996)………………………………..10.00
9. The Lion King (1994)………………………..9.75
10. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)………9.75
ZIMMER’S GREATEST AVERAGE: 9.950
* Composed in conjunction with James Newton Howard

If Zimmer hadn’t been a chowderhead about Pirates 1, he’s only need one more 10 to join John Williams as the only person we’ve examined with a perfect 10.00 career best score, but opportunities are on the horizon.

Zimmer is currently composing the score to this fall’s Christopher Nolan film, Interstellar, without being allowed to see the movie or a script!  That’s like golfing with no arms!  If he can pull that off, that’s something he can brag about forever.  He’s also agreed to return to the world of DC Comics to score Batman vs. Superman (the thought of the Dark Knight march colliding with the Man of Steel theme….sorry I spaced out for ten minutes).  Zimmer’s star continues to rise and he continues to get better, challenging himself to bring something to these huge scores that he’s never done; that maybe no one has ever done.  There’s no question he’s one of the most influential composers in movie music history and it’s only a matter of time before he gets his two final 10’s and can join John Williams in the “Perfect Career Score” clubhouse (which I may have built in my backyard just in case……JUST IN CASE!!!).

Hans Zimmer