Today is "Saturday at the Movies with my friend Jean from Sizzling Popcorn and MTMD. Last night we both saw The Dark Knight and Mamma Mia! and decided to collaborate together on an EntreCard blogosphere movie review. We hope you'll enjoy!
MTMD: Where is the dividing line between a movie and a morality play? When is a movie a fun escape, and when is it a descent into the darkest corners of our minds? Today at the Movies with MTMD and Sizzling Popcorn, we examine both Darkness and Light with our reviews of Batman: The Dark Knight, and Mamma Mia!
How are you this evening, SP?
SP: I'm doing fantastic! Just came out of Mamma Mia! and whoa!....Mamma Mia! was hilarious!
MTMD: I agree. And I'm glad I saw it after The Dark Knight, because by the time THAT movie ended, I needed some laughter.
SP: That's true! Batman returns in The Dark Knight, the second film in the revamped franchise. With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon and the new District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to fight crime in Gotham City. The Joker, a new criminal king pin, shows up in town, threating to kill one person each day Batman doesn't reveal himself. Batman is caught with a dilemna: die as a hero or live as the villain. What will he choose?
MTMD: Without giving away the answer to that question, I have to say that this movie impressed me beyond words. I thought it was a fine cinematic achievement that not only surpassed Batman Begins, but set a new standard for the way real moral questions are anguished over by fictional characters in cinema. What did you think?
SP: The Dark Knight brings realism to the franchise, which sort of was lacking in the first four films, but those weren't made to be dark. They were made to entertain the comic book and TV series fans. Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker was phenomenal! His effort was the glue that kept this movie together. I find that a lot of superhero films these days raise questions about morals. Let's take Spider-Man for example. "With much power comes much responsibility." I think that it's good for films to bring up these questions as it makes us think, but it also reminds each and everyone of us what we personally believe.
MTMD: Exactly. And while Batman is not a hero in the usual sense of the word, guided by conscious his actions were more heroic than that of the District Attorney, played wonderfully by Aaron Eckart. I find it amazing that through all Bruce Wayne / Batman has been through, and with all the reason he has to kill, he absolutely will not compromise his morals at the expense of his own reputation--still choosing to find another way. I find that inspiring, and I believe it gives a much stronger message than the homilies of Spiderman.
SP: I'm not sure how the weather was in North Carolina today, but this morning I checked the national weather on CTV NewsNET (the equivalent to CNN or Fox News in Canada) and from Vancouver, British Columbia (the West Coast) all the way to Halifax, Nova Scotia (East Coast) the forecast was thunderstorms. All day it was either dark or thunderstorms. For us in Canada, it really was "The Dark Friday".
MTMD: And I don't think they get any darker than with Heath Ledger as the Joker. I must say, I was so captivated by the late Heath Ledger's performance. It was arresting. Tragic, sinister, humourous at times in a very dark way, calculating and diabolic. I can't recall any character ever as dark as the Joker, or better played than perhaps the sole exception of Anthony Hopkin as Hannibal Lechter. Could Oscar be calling for Ledger come February?
SP: I think that Heath will not just be nominated, but that he will be rewarded with an Oscar for his compelling performance. I can't think of any other actor that could do a better job. In the early development stages, Christopher Nolan had thought of Marilyn Manson, but I'm glad he never went that route. Going that route might have attempted to make The Joker scarier, but he would have been a complete nightmare trying to act. I'm very well pleased with Nolan's decision to cast Heath Ledger.
SP: Locking yourself in an apartment for a month to prepare yourself for your role is intense! Too intense for most actors.
MTMD: The only other actors that I know of who performed such feats were Ledger's co-star, Christian Bale--losing over 100 pounds for his role in The Machinist, and Adrien Brody for his Oscar winning role in the Pianist. So, what was the highlight of The Dark Knight for you?
SP: What I really liked was the bat sound when the tension was increasing to a climax. I had no clue what was going to happen and then all of a sudden they switch to another character in the film. What was your favorite scene?
MTMD: I noticed the sound effects as well and thought they were brilliant! But to answer your question, I really enjoyed all the places where everyone got to choose what was right from what was wrong. And it wasn't just the main characters of Harvey Dent or Bruce Wayne as Batman. But Lucius Fox in taking a stand about one man possessing too much power and the way Bruce Wayne resolved it in the end, and even more so the way the passengers on the two boats had to decide if they would choose to kill the others on the other boat so that they could live, or if they would not make that choice resulting in everyone on both boats dying. The most surprising scene was the choice the convicted murderer made--which to me was a microcosm of the entire film--that with one shining example, good could overcome evil in Gotham City--and if it could happen in Gotham, it could happen in the rest of the world.
I think Christopher Nolan went to lengths to bring that out in the film without being preachy, condescending, or over the top. I believe this gives all of us hope. I mean, I would have expected the convicted murderer to make a different choice, just as I'm sure we all think we know what to expect from those from Palestine or Syria or Iraq or Iran or China or anywhere where we hope for the best, but in reality, we all really expect the worst. To me, scenes like this in blockbuster movies like this one give me hope. And when the entertainment industry can pull this off in a film like the Dark Knight, that so many around the world will see, I think it gives the world hope. And that's the most of what we can expect from art.
SP: I totally agree with that. Whether we're good or bad, we have choices to make. Even though we might be bad, we can still make good choices and vice versa. "It's not who you are, but what you do that defines you." - Batman Begins
MTMD: Or...it could be one of 22 ABBA hits that drive the movie adaptation of the blockbuster Worldwide Theater Hit Mamma Mia! starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Julie Walters, Colin Firth, Christine Baranski, Stellen Skarsgard, Amanda Seyfried, Dominic Cooper and the music of ABBA in what is by far the most unabashedly joyful, exuberant, and fun movie ever to appear on the silver screen!
SP: Yes...could you give the readers the scoop on the film?
MTMD: It would be my pleasure. Essentially, the story is simple. Days before her wedding on a Greek Island where her mother Donna owns and runs a Villa, Sophie sends out three wedding invitations to her three possible fathers. All her life Sophie was told her mother did not know who the father was, but upon discovering her mother's diary, three possible candidates emerge. As everyone arrives in Greece for the wedding, an inter-generational love story plays out with numerous intersecting love triangles. One of the characters, Tanya--played by Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Christine Baranski, actually comments "How Greek" referring to a Greek Tragedy. But this movie, built more around incorporating ABBA's legendary catalog of worldwide hits than a story made to hold water is at the extreme opposite end of the spectrum from darkness and tragedy. When you hear ABBA music, it's almost impossible not to find yourself grinning or your foot tapping along to the beat. Watching this talented cast tell this story while breaking into song with ABBA's biggest hits is nothing short of pure joy and light.
SP: As I was catching this flick tonight, I heard people around me singing the tunes they knew. Mamma Mia! is interactive, especially during the closing credits. Do not leave the theater until you see the treat the cast has for you in the credits.
MTMD: I'm sure the 30 million theater goers who have seen the musical on stage have already tipped off the movie goers.
SP: I really like Donna's (Streep's) two girl friends, Rosie and Tanya, as they're wildly hilarious! And I would have never expected to hear Pierce Brosnan sing, but he does! His voice might not be the best, but he can certainly hold a tune.
MTMD: Well, I'm going to have to disagree with you on Pierce Brosnan's singing credentials, however you're dead-on about the hilarity of Rosie and Tanya. The major criticism with the stage show was that ABBA's music out-shone the cast and the story. With the movie and this amazingly talented cast, I think the hilarious and touching performances turned in by the entire ensemble rise to the occasion and shine as brightly as ABBA's music in the movie. The prime example is one of the early scenes where Meryl Streep and Julie Walters and Christine Baranski sing Dancing Queen--ABBA's biggest hit. Just as their performance got the entire Greek island singing, every time Dancing Queen is heard in a bar or club, everyone gets up and dances. It was no exception in the theater.
SP: The "Dancing Queen" scene reminded me of a Viagara commercial from a couple of years ago. In the commercial, all the men were leaving their houses and walking on the streets with big smiles on their faces. In the movie, the women were leaving what they were doing to follow the others as they were going down to the dock singing "Dancing Queen".
MTMD: LOL! Or it could have been the Pied Piper of Hamlin....when ABBA music is played, who can resist? I sure couldn't. I had a wide grin plastered on my face for the entire two hours of Mamma Mia!
SP: I had sent my parents to a premiere of the movie as I was at The Dark Knight premiere and they said that they had a big smile on their face throughout the movie. What do you have to say about the moral of this story?
MTMD: Well unlike The Dark Knight, there is no moral to Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia! is just plain escapist fun. In the world we live in with so much tragedy and natural disaster and darkness, people need an outlet. Mamma Mia! opened on Broadway shortly after 9/11. I think it quickly became a hit because in dark times, people need escape and a way to have fun more than ever. ABBA's music is joyful, and I suppose that's the reason why their music has endured now for 35 years. And I'm certain that's why the musical is, and now the movie will be, such a massive hit.
SP: How would you rate Mamma Mia!?
MTMD: You know, I'd rate both The Dark Knight and Mamma Mia! 4 Stars for different reasons. I'd give The Dark Knight 4 Stars for story and for character and
for acting and for being the complete package of being a morality play in the form of a movie that will stand the test of time. I'd give Mamma Mia! 4 Stars because it is pure fun and unabashed joy. There has never been a movie like this in the history of the silver screen. There have been comedies, there have been musicals, but Mamma Mia! is just pure joy packaged into a two-hour tribute to having fun for the sake of having fun, and to one of the greatest pop groups the world has ever seen.
SP: I'd give The Dark Knight a Sizzling Popcorn rating (4 1/2 stars) for it's direction, score and cast. Heath Ledger's performance put this movie over the top and makes it the best blockbuster of the summer and one of the top 10 movies of the year. On the other hand, I'd give Mamma Mia! a Popcorn rating (3.5 stars) for the fun memories of the ABBA hits and it's well-know cast. Whether you've seen the play or not doesn't matter. If you're looking for a film to relax to and have fun with Mamma Mia! is the way to go!
MTMD: And that, as they say, is The Name of the Game! Thank You For The Music!
SP: That's all folks!
MTMD: Until next time, this has been Saturday Night at the Movies with MTMD and Sizzling Popcorn.
Thank you for reading.
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