Cocktail (1988)

cocktail_4Starring Tom Cruise, Bryan Brown, Elisabeth Shue, Lisa Banes, Laurence Luckinbill, Kelly Lynch, Gina Gershon, Ron Dean, Robert Donley, Ellen Foley

Directed by Roger Donaldson

Expectations: Very low.

onehalfstar


When you hear someone talking about ’80s movies that haven’t aged well, Cocktail is exactly the type of movie they’re talking about. Everything about the film is so drenched in 1980s wealth-seeking immorality that it’s no surprise the film was a huge success in its day. But in 2013, Cocktail stands easily identifiable as a dated and overlong mess of a film. I love ’80s movies more than most people, but Cocktail is ’80s in all the wrong ways.

But for some reason Cocktail isn’t all that hard to watch. Sure, it’s well-shot and features some great locations in New York City and Jamaica, but that’s beside the point. The real reason is Tom Cruise. I’ve never been much of a fan, but I can’t deny him his ability to fill a screen and own it with his charisma. He’s on full display throughout the film and he does a great job playing a sexist, idealistic douche. The supporting cast is also easy on the eyes, with Bryan Brown perfectly playing the cocky bartender mentor and Elisabeth Shue looking beautiful as she facilitates romantic plot points for Cruise to work his way through.

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The Dark Knight (2008)

Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Monique Gabriela Curnen, Ron Dean, Chin Han, Nestor Carbonell, Eric Roberts, Ritchie Coster, Anthony Michael Hall

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Expectations: High. Haven’t watched it since the theater.


[Editor’s note: I may spoil this movie, so if you’re one of the few who hasn’t seen it and you care, just watch it.]

Let’s just get this out of the way: Batman Begins is the better movie. I’m not trying to stir up controversy or anything, I’m just being realistic. Batman Begins sets up the world of Batman, sets up the character of Batman, sets up your attachment to this version of Batman. The Dark Knight plays off of that and builds on it, but the framework is already there. Also, The Dark Knight isn’t so much a Batman movie as it is a Gotham City movie, so with the focus shifted it allows for something completely different — and awesome — to occur, but I think it’s easy to be wowed by the machinations of The Dark Knight and forget how great that first Batman movie was. I know that’s what happened to me when I saw this in the theater, but watching them both at home in the space of a few days has allowed me to appraise them in a much more realistic way.

So as The Dark Knight is a movie about Gotham and its arc, it has a tendency to become detached from the things that made Batman Begins great. That character connection to Bruce Wayne/Batman is almost non-existent here, but it is replaced by the Joker’s wild brand of anarchy and the noble “White Knight” pursuits of Harvey Dent to finally clean up Gotham City once and for all. This makes The Dark Knight a harder movie to get inside of and feel connected to, but it doesn’t inherently make it a bad movie like it might in the hands of a different director. This is because Gotham and Batman are so closely tied together that in a way Gotham’s story is Batman’s story; Batman is an incorruptible symbol that will do anything necessary to help the city he lives in.

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