Tag Archives: Joe Pantoliano

Christopher Nolan

I’ve seen all but one of Nolan’s movies, and he impresses the hell out of me with his ability to both write and direct competently without any gross missteps. He casts well, he gets good performances out of his actors, and his scripts often have refreshingly original ideas. He hasn’t yet made the movie that has left me in complete awe, but I won’t be surprised if he eventually does. Sometimes his scripts are too ambitious. I would love to see him direct a television show where he gets five seasons to tell something epic.

The Dark Knight Rises: Bane is a decent foe for Batman as is Marion Cotillard’s character. But I didn’t feel much awe while watching this, which is kind of necessary for a superhero movie. Cillian Murphy makes a fun reappearance as the Scarecrow.

Grade: B-

Inception: Nolan does an exceptional job of taking this mind-boggling concept and teaching it to the viewer without too much exposition. Slick camerawork and good performances as well by DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Ellen Page. But despite how epic the movie remains, there are so many glaring plot holes in the last half hour that it’s hard for me to overlook them. The ending is also manipulative and obvious and created some silly debates among viewers. On the other hand, it was also the first movie I saw with my wife, so bonus points there.

Grade: B

The Dark Knight: The second of the Batman movies is famous for being Heath Ledger’s final movie and also his best, as he deservedly won an Oscar for his portrayal of The Joker. He’s pure delight every second he’s on the screen. But there are probably even more plot issues here than in Inception (mostly the good guys making things way too hard) making for some really contrived climactic scenes.

Grade: B

Memento: Famous for the entire movie being told backwards. Each scene is about two to six minutes, then we jump back in time to the one before it. Guy Pearce plays a guy with amnesia who forgets everything he’s learned after a few minutes and therefore obsessively writes things down on paper and on his body. It’s dizzying at first, but Nolan does a good job of making everything fall into place at just the right time. Gimmicky for sure, but the story is good regardless. And the acting is excellent. The Matrix stars Carrie Ann Moss and Joe Pantoliano give chilling performances, and Pearce is believable as well. Haven’t watched this a second time, though there is an option on the DVD to watch it forwards rather than backwards.

Grade: B+

Following: Nolan’s first full-length movie, in black and white, we meet a writer who (benignly) stalks people for his stories, until a thief notices him and takes him under his wing as a co-thief. One of the best stories I’ve seen that relies on plot twists and misdirection, I never felt manipulated or taken by the storytelling. The acting isn’t the greatest and the budget is obviously low, but you can definitely see some Nolan trademarks and it’s beautifully paced.

Grade: A-

Insomnia: Two L.A. detectives are sent to an Alaskan town where the sun literally doesn’t set for months at a time to solve the systematic murders of the local police force. Based on a Norwegian film made a few years earlier. The only movie Nolan doesn’t have a writing credit for, though he did have a hand in some of it. Al Pacino is good, and Robin Williams puts in one of the best performances of his career, probably because Nolan doesn’t allow him to mug for the camera.

Grade: A-

Batman Begins: I never had a desire to see a superhero movie but I was blown away by this. Beautifully shot and an imaginative, compelling back story for how Batman became to be. Perhaps I love it because I pretty much hate comic books and this movie never feels like one. I was engaged all the way until the end. Cillian Murphy is awesome as the Scarecrow, but Michael Caine and Gary Oldman are inspired choices as well. Katie Holmes was a misstep as Rachel Dawes (corrected with Maggie Gyllenhaal in the sequel) but she doesn’t ruin anything.

Grade: A-

Other Christopher Nolan Movie You May Have Seen

The Prestige

Andy & Lana Wachowski

Andy and Lana (formerly Larry) Wachowski have only done six movies, but boy their first two were so special one thought they’d be a legendary super-director team.  I don’t know if The Matrix sequels derailed them or they just ran out of ideas (they also write their movies). Or maybe they ran out of Joe Pantoliano. Either way, they are highly skilled at directing fight scenes and are pretty good at understanding suspense. But as far as getting the most out of their actors they’re only average and their writing appears to be hit and miss, perhaps too ambitious as of late.

The Matrix Reloaded: Not-needed sequel failed in part because it ruined the mystique of the original, over-explaining everything. Some decent action scenes, but man I felt nothing while watching this. So much so that I haven’t bothered to watch the final movie.

Grade: D-

Bound: A genuinely tense thriller that relies heavily on situational tension rather than manufactured scares, An ex-con (Gina Gershon) teams up with her new lover (Jennifer Tilly) to swindle millions from the mob while framing Tilly’s boyfriend, Joe Pantoliano. Very tight script with slick direction. Tilly and Gershon have good chemistry, and Pantoliano is outstanding. And just so my wife knows, I don’t like Bound just because of the lesbian scene.

Grade: B

The Matrix: I had high expectations when I saw this in the theater and they were met tenfold. I was blown away by the special effects, possibly the only time that’s ever happened. The fight scenes are some of my favorite ever. But more than that, I found the pacing of the movie to be brilliant, with very effective doses of tension. Hugo Weaving plays the cold-as-ice lead agent perfectly, and the rest of the cast is capable, especially Pantoliano and Carrie Ann-Moss. Keanu Reeves doesn’t get in the way, which is the best he can probably do. The plot (is our reality the real reality?) is not terribly original, and sometimes the philosophizing and Jesus references gets to be a bit much, but the story is revealed layer by layer, with the viewer never knowing more than the main protagonist. Repeated viewings weakens the movie only slightly.

Grade: A

Other Wachowski Movies You May Have Seen

Matrix Revolutions
Speed Racer
Cloud Atlas