Archives for posts with tag: Christian Bale

Grade A

Part comedy, part drama, part suspense and part horror — unless you don’t think being unemployed and homeless is horrifying — “The Big Short” is an eye-opening, crazy ride into the world of financial markets and how the world economy collapsed in 2008/2009.

A handful of traders and investors (played by Steve Carell, Christian Bale, and Ryan Gosling, to name a few) have found serious flaws in the U.S. housing market that would cause it to collapse and take the entire U.S. economy — and those of other countries — down with it.  They decide to go “short” (basically a bet that prices will fall) against the housing market.  These men are laughed at and ridiculed by the rest of the traders/investors/banks who take the opposite bet; but eventually the financial apocalypse that so few had the vision to see — and the balls to take advantage of — will come, bringing such a wide swath of destruction that the effects are still felt by the entire world as I write this.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Gosling is trying to do business with Carell to take a large, short position on the housing market.  Carell and his guys ask for the math on Gosling’s findings.  Gosling points to a young, Asian guy and tells Carell and his crew that the Asian guy is his math specialist!  “Look at his face, look at his eyes,” Gosling says.  Ha ha!   Yes, it was a racist comment; but it was also funny as hell.  I’m Asian, and I laughed my ass off — and even if I wasn’t Asian, I’d still laugh my ass off.  Don’t be so sensitive…the world isn’t here to tiptoe around your feelings.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Big Short” is the scene when Carell is in a restaurant asking a manager of a CDO fund (Collateralized Debt Obligation, which is a financial instrument that was filled with garbage a few years prior to the financial collapse of 2008/2009) what he does and what is in his CDO fund and who the manager really works for.   This scene quickly sums up the high level of greed and callousness in the financial markets that helped usher in all that pain for hundreds of millions of workers all throughout the world.   This scene is infuriating to watch.

For those not at all knowledgeable about the financial markets, “The Big Short” can be confusing despite a few segments where celebrities — playing themselves — explain things in a more simplified form.   But this will be easily understandable by all: there were a lot of shenanigans going on in the U.S. government, the ratings agencies, the traders/investors/brokers, real estate companies, banks, investment banks, and last but definitely not least, the numerous people who took out housing loans who had no idea what they were getting into.

Bottom line: whether you’re into stocks or bonds or currencies or commodities, it’s gambling.  Know exactly what you’re getting into.

— M

 

Mark Wahlberg plays Micky Ward, a real life prizefighter back in the 1980s who had dreams of becoming a champion.  The life of a professional boxer is grueling; and for Wahlberg, it is made worse by a washed-out, boxer brother (played by Christian Bale) who is addicted to crack, and a mother/manager who sometimes doesn’t have Wahlberg’s best interests in mind.  Enter Amy Adams, who plays Wahlberg’s new girlfriend, and persona non grata to Wahlberg’s mother and cadre of sisters, further adding more unwanted drama and distractions to Wahlberg.  Adams seems to be one of the few straight arrows that can steer Wahlberg toward his dream of becoming a champion; but his family is always close by, threatening to destroy everything that Wahlberg has worked hard for.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Fighter” is the scene when Bale is being arrested and beaten after impersonating a police officer, robbing people, and assaulting police officers.  Wahlberg intervenes, and he is held down and his left hand is deliberately broken by a cop; and then he’s arrested.  Ouch.

The runner-up for my memorable moments of this movie is a scene when Wahlberg is on his first date with Adams.  After they walk out of the movie theater, Adams asks why Wahlberg would take her to a movie that he clearly wasn’t interested in, and in a town where no one knew them.  Is there a wife or girlfriend he’s hiding?  Wahlberg quietly tells Adams that he told everyone in their hometown he would win the boxing match he had a few days ago.  Tired of letting his family and friends down, and obviously embarrassed, Wahlberg just wanted to avoid facing those people.  This is the moment when I wanted this guy to win.  I’ve been down like that a few times, so that scene got to me.

Amazing performances by Bale and Adams, and another good showing for Wahlberg, help make “The Fighter” a must see for boxing movie fans.  There are many elements here that many viewers can relate to: a loving but dysfunctional family; the bond between brothers; addiction; working hard to make something meaningful out of one’s life; and finding love and letting that love make you a better and stronger person.  Congratulations to director David O. Russell for another outstanding job.

— M

In a poor, working class, Pennsylvania town, two brothers (played by Christian Bale and Casey Affleck) struggle to make better lives for themselves.  Bale seems to be on a good track to achieving a bit of the American dream, working hard, staying out of trouble, and having the love of a good woman; but a small mistake leads to an accident that derails his life.  Affleck, a soldier in the US Army, has gambling problems and suffers from PTSD due to his combat tours in the Middle East.

Now out of prison, Bale has lost much, but continues to fight for what little he has.  Affleck has lost some of his sanity overseas, and takes part in illegal fighting to make money to pay off his gambling debts.  But Affleck doesn’t just fight for money, he does it to deal with his inner demons that have haunted him since his overseas deployment.  A tough fighter who never quits and isn’t afraid of anyone, Affleck wants a match that has a big payday so he can clear his debts and start fresh.  Well, he gets that match; and it sets him on a collision course with a vicious gangster played by Woody Harrelson, who will forever alter the lives of the two brothers.

“Out of The Furnace” is a grim story of brotherly love, the damage that war does to soldiers, men who feed on others for money, and how working hard and doing the right thing can still lead to failure and suffering.  Depressing, yes; but it’s a good movie filled with heavy hitters like Bale, Affleck, Harrelson, Willem Dafoe, and Forest Whitaker.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Affleck fires up his car — a classic, Oldsmobile Cutlass, I think — and revs up the engine, giving the audience an earful of that loud, beautiful exhaust that 8 cylinders produce.  Damn the gas prices and noxious crap that comes out of the exhaust pipes, that 8 cylinder rumble is music to my ears.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Out Of The Furnace” is the opening shot of the movie: rows of cars facing the screen of a drive-in movie!  Yes, Americans, they still exist!  I happen to go to one of them on a regular basis, and I always feel like a kid going there.  It’s a bit of a time warp, feels like a dream, and for about 3 and 1/2 hours (they play double features) my worries are gone.   Now, tell me what else is out there that can give you all that for $9?

— M

My red car parked near the screen of a drive-in movie theater.

My red car parked near the screen of a drive-in movie theater.

In this third Christian Bale, Batman movie, Gotham City’s Dark Knight (played by Bale) has not made an appearance in years because Bruce Wayne’s/Batman’s body and soul have been worn out from years of fighting crime and being hunted by the police.  Bale is just fine being a recluse and nursing his physical and psychological wounds as cops handle Gotham City’s criminal elements — until a new threat arrives: Bane (played by Tom Hardy).   Using new gadgets that add strength to his weakened body, Bale suits up again and goes toe to toe against Hardy.  The fight goes horribly wrong for Bale, as he underestimates the power and skill and determination that Hardy has; and Bale finds himself in a seemingly hopeless situation as Hardy proceeds with his plan to destroy Gotham City.

Director and screenwriter Christopher Nolan has given us another dark, deep and disturbing work of art in “The Dark Knight Rises.”  The movie explores subjects such as: corruption in the police force; lying for the public good, and how the lies can quickly get out of hand and become worse than telling the truth in the first place; the need to leave a loved one because the loved one’s self-destructive lifestyle will do harm to those around him; finding in yourself the strength and purpose to rise out of a literal and figurative pit; and how much of yourself are you willing to sacrifice in order to achieve your goals.

In this movie, we get to see a few new toys in Batman’s arsenal.   The most interesting is what I think is called The Wing, basically a hovercraft.  And there is the handheld, Electro Magnetic Pulse gun that will destroy the electronics in any device.   And yes, Batman still doesn’t use a gun.  He has cannons that can demolish buildings, but he uses no guns.  Why? Because his parents were killed by guns.  This has always been a problem I had with the Batman character, and why he isn’t one of my favorite comic book characters.  In the comic books, Batman is always saying that guns are for weak, cowardly criminals.   Hey, a gun is a tool.  It can be used for good or bad.   And we know Batman has lots of tools (gadgets) that he uses.  Does that make him weak and cowardly, or crafty and intelligent?  You use what you can to get the job done.  If his parents were killed by someone using a knife, would Batman not use any blade in his arsenal, and instead use guns?

Guns or no guns, Batman doesn’t make an appearance until almost halfway into the movie.  I’m sure Nolan got an earful from studio execs about that one.  But I believe Nolan did the right thing.  It allows the audience to be on pins and needles waiting for Batman to show up, and when he does finally show, it makes the experience more rewarding.  Like waiting until you’re very hungry to eat your favorite food.  Nolan defied Hollywood convention in not showing the costumed hero until much later in the movie, and it paid off handsomely.

I have two memorable, movie moments from “The Dark Knight Rises.”  In second place — SPOILER ALERT HERE — is the last shot of the movie when Gotham Police Officer Blake goes into the Batcave, and steps onto a platform that quickly rises to reveal all that is within.  Oh, Officer Blake’s first name is Robin.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Dark Knight Rises” is the scene where Michael Caine (who plays Alfred) is telling Bale that he is leaving because he refuses to watch Bale continue to fight crime as Batman and most likely end up being killed.  Caine tells Bale that Bale has done enough as Batman, and that he can help Gotham better as Bruce Wayne.  Caine sees no end to Bale’s crime fighting as Batman if he doesn’t stop at this moment, and the pain of seeing Bale waste his life on his nightly crusades is too much for Caine to bear.  This is the most powerful scene in the movie, dealing with wanting and needing to leave someone you love very much because you can no longer take seeing that person continue with his/her obsession that you know will ultimately lead to that person’s destruction.  For those who have never been in that situation you won’t understand Caine’s decision to leave.  You’ll think that Caine should have just stuck it out and help Bale do what he needed to do.  For those who have been in this situation, you’ll understand the pain that Caine is dealing with; and know that he is leaving only because Caine has reached his emotional breaking point that will manifest itself into some physical sickness if he stays.  Sometimes you have to let people go and let them do what they have to do.

“The Dark Knight Rises” is an entertaining and emotionally satisfying ending to the Nolan/Bale Batman trilogy, worthy of being bought on BD to add to your collection of great movies. Of course, the very last shot offers hints of more to come.  Typical of big budget, profitable, Hollywood movies: a little hedge in case another movie is greenlit; but if not, then the last movie stands on its own as a great ending.

M

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