Archives for posts with tag: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Grade B+

 

Shakespeare’s “The Taming Of The Shrew” is the basis for “10 Things I Hate About You,” a fun, sweet, romantic-comedy that has a surprising amount of substance.  Julia Stiles plays the “shrew,” a highly intelligent teen who is fiercely independent and speaks her mind at all times.  So what’s the problem?  Well, her sister is a social butterfly who wants to date but isn’t allowed to by the father…unless Stiles also dates.  The father’s idea is that Stiles will never date, and so the other daughter won’t either, and neither of them will do any crazy, sexual things with boys.

But two young men — one of whom is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt — desperately want to date Stiles’ sister; and so both of them work up a scheme to have a fearless, bad boy in their school (played by Heath Ledger) to ask out Stiles.   Typical of a rom-com, the lead romantic couple “meet cute,” they start to really like each other, then a monkey wrench gets tossed into the situation that can potentially mess everything up.

My most memorable, movie moment of “10 Things I Hate About You” is the scene when Stiles gets up in front of her English class and reads a poem that is basically a list of things she hates about Ledger.  It was the most poignant part of the movie as well as showing the wonderful talent of Stiles.

What sets “10 Things I Hate About You” apart from the typical, teen rom-com are: solid, three-dimensional characters of Ledger, Stiles and Gordon-Levitt; very clever dialogue dished out by Stiles; the two lead characters are very likeable; and the great chemistry between Stiles and Ledger.   It took me almost 20 years to finally see this movie, and now I know why it is so popular.

— M

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I saw this movie for the first time at the drive-in movie theater, and I loved this amazing work of art ever since.  “500 Days Of Summer” states from the very beginning, “This is not a love story.”  Is this statement a “red herring,” or is it an accurate description of the movie?

“500…” stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young man who quickly falls in love with a co-worker named Summer (played by Zooey Deschanel).  This being in the genre of Romantic Comedy, you just know things aren’t going to go smoothly: Levitt is a romantic, and Deschanel doesn’t believe in love.  Despite their differing viewpoints about love, a romance is started, albeit one that is based on rules that they are just friends, keeping things casual, and Deschanel’s crystal clear explanation that she’s not looking for anything serious.

What we have here is a role reversal, where the man takes on the stereotypical outlook of a woman with respect to relationships; and the woman takes the stereotypical stance of a man regarding love and romance.  This isn’t an original idea, but director Marc Webb and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber did a brilliant job with it and the many other little and big things in the movie that make “500…” stand out high and above the endless rom/com crap that is out there.

One example of the filmmakers’ brilliance is their witty and clever use of non-linear storytelling, i.e. going back and forth in time.  Lesser writers and directors would end up with a choppy and incoherent movie; but in the case of “500…” it gives the movie energy and mystery, drawing the audience further into the story.

My most memorable, movie moment of “500 Days Of Summer” is the sequence that has Levitt going to a rooftop party thrown by Deschanel.  The screen splits into two, and on the left we have Levitt’s “expectations” of how the party will go between him and Deschanel; and on the right we have the “reality” of how things will actually play out.  As far as I know, this is the first time I’ve seen this technique used, and it is used skillfully.  And the sequence is heartbreaking.

Taking second place for my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Levitt and Deschanel are first getting to know each other and telling each other a bit about their past.  Deschanel blurts out that in college, her nickname was “anal girl.”  Levitt’s reaction was appropriate!

Third place for my memorable, movie moment of “500…” is the dancing sequence the morning after Levitt has sex with Deschanel.  Ah, love, when it works, that dancing sequence is how most of us feel.  And when it doesn’t, well, the movie shows that side, too.

An honorable mention goes to actor Chloe Grace Moretz, who plays Levitt’s younger sister who has a mind much older and sharper than her brother’s.  She gives him great advice that he, unfortunately, usually doesn’t take.

“500 Days Of Summer,” to me, is an honest look at how fun, painful, confusing, blind, inspiring, beautiful and destructive love can be. For those who have been there and back, and managed to survive those broken-hearted moments, this movie is for you. But those who are still recovering from bad relationships, you may want to keep away from this masterpiece.

I leave you all with something I told some of my friends: if you want to find that diamond, you have to do a lot of digging in the dirt.

— M

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt writes, directs, and stars in this very funny movie about a young man who has a very active sex life; easily finding good-looking, young women to take back to his apartment after a night of clubbing.  Yet he still has a terrible need to masturbate many times a week while watching porn.   Welcome to the world of “Don Jon.”

Levitt (Don Jon) is a caricature of young, single males from Jersey whose life centers around sex.   Most things about him are exaggerated for maximum shock and laughter: the tight clothing, the 1970s muscle car (a Chevy Chevelle SS, I think), the road rage, the macho walk, the facial expressions he makes toward women in clubs he wants to get with, and his take on why he prefers masturbating to porn than having sex.

Because Levitt is not looking to settle down and start a family, he’s happy with his current state.  Why buy the cow when all you want is milk, and the price of milk is low?  But then he meets Scarlett Johansson, and he falls for her hard right at the beginning; and that’s when she slowly makes him miserable by forcing him to do things he doesn’t want to do like: take a college class, stop cleaning his own apartment — she says it’s “not sexy” — and stop watching porn because it’s disgusting and only weirdos and perverts do it.  Are you f*%#@$g kidding!   I would’ve thrown her ass to the gutters!  Some of the reasons I like “Don Jon” so much is because we have many things in common: we like to work out a lot; we both drive sports cars; we’re both single; we like to keep things neat; we both love porn; we’re single; we love our families; we like to use product on our hair; and we like women.  But I’m much older than Levitt’s character, so I’ve learned not to take that kind of s*#t from a woman.  I don’t care how much I like her, once she starts telling me to do things that don’t make sense to me, that’s when it’s time for her to go.   Okay, enough about me.  Back to Levitt.

He’s young and in love, so he’s become a bit of a sucker for her bidding.   And he’s now torn between doing what he likes and doing what Johansson wants him to do.  Levitt decides to do both, and that’s when his life really gets topsy-turvy.  On top of that, he meets Julianne Moore in the college class he takes, and begins a strange relationship with her that will alter his life forever.

One of my memorable moments of “Don Jon” is when he goes to church to confess his sins, and his “sins” are less than what he confessed to earlier; and he expected less Hail Mary’s and The Lord’s Prayer, but got the same amount by the priest.  Levitt questions how the punishment is tallied, and the priest simply says something like “trust in the lord” or “have faith in the Lord.”  Levitt leaves with a WTF expression on his face.  Yeah, exactly.  Listen, when your question is answered with s*#t like that, that means the one who is answering you has no clue what the hell is going on.  You’re better off talking to whatever God you believe in directly, and cut out the middle man.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Don Jon” is the sequence when Levitt tells the audience why he prefers porn over real sex.  He says of real sex: women don’t give you a good blowjob or a long enough one than what you see in porn; women like to do missionary position too much so you don’t get to see and slap their asses; you can’t get infections from porn; and in real sex women won’t let you do certain things to them like ejaculate on their face.  Well, I have to disagree with much of his assessment!  Some women out there do let you ejaculate on their face, or boobs, or in their mouths (some will swallow); some women out there will give you a very good, lengthy blowjob without you having to reciprocate (even though you should!); and some women out there can be just as freaky as men, and are willing to experiment in many strange and fascinating ways.  “How do you know this, Manny?” you ask.  I speak from experience.  Apparently Levitt gets very lucky only with women who like regular sex.

As much as I enjoyed “Don Jon” (so much so that I am planning to buy this on BD when the price goes to $10 or less), there were two things that bothered me about it.  One is mentioned in the previous paragraph, and the other is that the movie clearly lets us know early that Levitt has a sexual dysfunction.  But does he really?  Everybody’s different.   People get off on different things.  As long as everyone involved are single, consenting adults, I don’t see what the big deal is if someone likes porn, or likes to get whipped, or likes to play with urine.  Ideally you want to be with someone who gets turned on on the same things.  And if you’re not with someone who likes the same things that you do sexually, it’s time to move on.  I don’t care if you consider her a “dime” the way Levitt called Johansson a dime.

And by the way, no way in hell Johansson is a dime!  A 10!  Johansson!  Hell no!  At best, she’s an 8.  Go on youtube and look up M.U.G.R.A.W. (Manny’s Universal Guide for RAting Women) for a detailed explanation on what I consider an 8.

— M

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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