Fier Thy Words

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Oh, What a ‘Knight’

7/20/08

In what was easily the most highly anticipated movie of the summer, ‘The Dark Knight’ had a lot of expectations to live up to and upon seeing the film yesterday, I unfortunately have to say that it failed to do so.

No, The Dark Knight didn’t meet my expectations.

It exceeded them.

In one of if not the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen, The Dark Knight delivered with some the help of a very memorable performance by the late Heath Ledger, who portrayed The Joker.

It’s rare that a movie with as much hype as The Dark Knight delivers, and while I had a handful of minor gripes with movie, all in all, I couldn’t have left the theater much more satisfied than I did.

I’ll start with the negatives, because there really weren’t many.

The movie was 2 hours and 30 minutes, and probably didn’t need to be. The last half hour of the movie seemed to lag just a bit, and the thing that bothered me was I kept worrying the movie was going to end prematurely due to it’s length, however that wasn’t the case at all.

I thought as good as Heath Ledger was (relax, I’m not about to knock his performance), he was somewhat underutilized considering how brilliant he was. From a lot of the reviews I read before seeing the movie, the idea going in I had was that Ledger’s Joker was almost the featured character in the movie, and that simply was not the case. That being said, the fact we didn’t see The Joker more almost mystified the scenes he was in, which you could argue made the character all the better.

Finally, I was disappointed (and I really can’t believe I’m saying this) with the replacement of Katie Holmes by Maggie Gyllenhaal. Forget about her personal life (I strongly believe that despite the fact she’s married to Tom Cruise and is therefore crazy by association), Holmes gave the character of Rachael some personality, while Gyllenhaal was rather bland and quite frankly somewhat boring. But again, that being said, Gyllenhaal’s performance in no way took away from the movie, it’s simply one of the minor issues I had with the film.

Ok, so lets talk about what made this movie worth all the hype, and then some.

First and foremost, Heath Ledger was as good as advertised if not better.

Following in the footsteps of Jack Nicholson who was outstanding in his portrayal of The Joker back in the 1989 hit movie Batman, Ledger brought a whole new level of creepyness and insanity to the character.

He took a well known character and not only successfully transformed himself into that character, but really made it own with a signature voice, laugh, walk and some downright disturbing facial expressions.

Now I may offend some people by saying this, but Heath Ledger’s performance, while very impressive, was not Oscar worthy, and should he be nominated, I would imagine it would have a lot to do with the fact he passed away.

A best supporting actor nomination wouldn’t be an injustice, just somewhat undeserved based solely on the fact that between the type of character he played and the amount of time he had on the screen.

The acting across the board (with the afformentioned exception of Maggie Gyllenhaal) was exceptional.

Christian Bale reprised his role of Batman and alter-ego Bruce Wayne and did another solid job with both characters.

Hats off to Aaron Eckhart who played Harvey Dent, Gotham City’s new hotshot District Attorney. I’ll come out and say it, his performance was just as good as anybody else’s in the film, including Ledger.

Gary Oldman returns as Gordon, and plays a much larger role in Dark Knight than in Begins.  He puts in a quietly outstanding job once again, despite the added screen time.

Michael Caine (Alfred) and Morgan Freeman (Lucious Fox) both nailed their supporting roles, while both were also somewhat underused in my opinion.

For the first time in leaving a movie (and I had read this in other reviews but didn’t really understand what it meant until I saw it myself) I want to give some serious credit to the editing of the movie. It’s not often a movie that long runs so smoothly scene to scene. As my friend was correct to note, the editing was “seemless”.

After I left the movie, I only felt worse that Heath Ledger left us far too soon, because his performance was so original and so genuine that one can’t help but think about the continuing success he would have had.

If you weren’t part of the $155 million+ dollars the movie made over the weekend in setting a new all time record for an opening, regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of the Batman franchise, do yourself a favor and go out and see this movie.

The Dark Knight starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman.

A-, 3 1/2 stars (out of 4)

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July 20, 2008 Posted by | Movies | , , , , | 1 Comment

Billy Joel “Sheas” Goodbye

7/19/08

“Sing us a song, you’re the Piano Man. Sing us a song tonight.”

Last night at Shea Stadium, Billy Joel did that, and quite a bit more.

Those lines of course from what many consider to be Billy Joel’s unofficial anthem, “Piano Man”,
managed to provide the fans with what many had expected would be the final song of the evening, as was the case Wednesday night during Mr. Joel’s first of his two performances this week. Of course the final song of the night would belong to one Mr. Joel’s special guests, but more on that later.

While I wasn’t there Wednesday, I heard nothing but rave reviews, which including a detailed listing of the songs and guests Mr. Joel had show up, including The Eagles’ Don Henley, John Mayer, John Melencamp and Tony Bennett.

Not bad by any means, especially when you consider they were only side dishes to the main course of Mr. Joel who all in all gave fans 3 hours of performing.

Going into the concert last night, I had heard rumors of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, Roger Daughtry of The Who and Garth Brooks all showing up, which only added to my excitement.

As both a fan of Billy Joel, albeit not nearly as long as almost everybody else at Shea last night, and the baseball teams which calls Shea home, it was the perfect storm of excitement for me.

To make a great night even better, I had seats on the floor, which gave my the ability to walk around the field of what I have often considered my home away from home, as I’ve probably spent as much time at Shea Stadium over the last 15 years than I have at any place other than where I’ve gone to school and where I’ve lived.

After spending a good hour and half roaming around the field, I finally settled into my seats and got ready for my first ever dose of Billy Joel.

Not only had I never seen Mr. Joel perform live, last night marked only the second time I’ve attended a concert, the first and only other being Sarah McLachlan a few years ago with my girlfriend at the time (a concert I thoroughly enjoyed, which I’m not ashamed to admit.)

The concert opened up with Mr. Joel singing the Star Spangled Banner, welcoming us to Shea and then getting right into his first song of the night, Miami 2017, during which he followed up a line in the song referencing the Yankees with an ad-libbed line about the Mets playing at Shea.

Most of the first half of his concert was filled with a mix of hits (The Entertainer) and songs that as Mr. Joel proclaimed weren’t hit singles whatsoever (Zanzibar), but everything he sang sounded great regardless, and was generally sung along too by almost everybody there.

Unfortunately, I’m awful with lyrics and showed up unprepared to sing along to anything more than a handful of songs and a chorus here and there, but it didn’t take away from the experience.

Tony Bennett showed up once again to deliver a very moving performance of New York State of Mind, which had the home crowd on it’s feet.

Garth Brooks was the second guest of the night, as he came out to sing Shameless. Mr. Brooks came out in a Mets jersey and hat, as he actually had been invited to spring training with the team back in 2000.

When I had heard Mr. Brooks was going to appear I really wasn’t all too impressed, however after hearing him perform I was left feeling stupid, as he and Mr. Joel sang together and sounded terrific.

During The River of Dreams, Mr. Joel snuck The Beatles’ Hard Days Night in, which was one of the really special moments of the night, as Mr. Joel was paying tribute to the band which first played Shea back in 1965.

A bit later on, Steven Tyler came out and performed Walk this Way which had the crowd going crazy and singing along.

The guests were sandwiched in between all of Mr. Joel’s biggest hits, which included hits such as We Didn’t Start the Fire, It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me, and Captain Jack, which was among the few songs I was able to sing along with (at least partially…aka a few lines beyond the chorus).

What we all believed was going to be the final guest act of the night, Roger Daltrey from The Who came out to sing “My Generation”. Mr. Joel, who had already left his Piano stool, was in full rock star mode as he shattered a guitar into pieces following the end of the song, which had the crowd in a frenzy.

Throughout the night, Mr. Joel showed off the personality which has made him such a fan favorite, cracking self deprecating jokes and interacting with the crowd such as when he was informing us on why he was using a spray to keep his throat moist “because it’s not humid enough out, right?”

I’m too young to have grown up with his music or have much of an appreciation for what he has meant to New Yorker’s, however my first impressions of him in person, at the age of 59, were that I was watching a man who embraced what he has was doing, enjoying it with all of his heart, and truly loving the support he has gotten, not only during his two night stay in Queens, but throughout his career.

He was down to earth and came across as just another one of the guys, which is probably what has allowed him to be so symbolic to New Yorker’s as he has been able to enjoy great success while never forgetting his roots (he stated “to us, anything west of New Jersey is considered the west!”). And like I said, he poked fun at himself by suggesting pre-nuptuals before marriage (he’s currently in his third) and reminded everyone to drive home safely “not like me”.

Mr. Joel, after thanking Shea, set the crowd up for his first encore of the night, coming back out to sing my favorite song of his, Scenes From an Italian Restaurant, a sing in which I belted every word of, losing my breathe between verses and nearly bursting a blood vessel from shouting so loud.

After Only the Good Die Young, Mr. Joel once again left the stage thanking the crowd, but not before a helicopter was seen over the ball park, which caused Mr. Joel himself to look up with a look on his face that sort of hinted somebody had just arrived.

Upon returning for a second encore, Mr. Joel presented the crowd with the greatest surprise of the night, introducing Sir Paul McCartney, at which point I, a 21 year old male who if you ask anybody who knows me- knows I almost never get overly excited about ANYTHING, started screaming and jumping up and down no less than a foot or two in the air.

Paying no attention to the fact I had hurt my back pretty badly earlier in the week and was just starting to feel better, I re-injured it while jumping somewhere between 10 and 15 times screaming “OH MY GOD, THATS PAUL MCCARTNEY” as though it was 1965 and I was a fourteen year old girl.

The former Beatle had the crowd louder than it had been at any point that evening, and played “I Saw Her Standing There” and just like he had back in 1965, had Shea Stadium absolutely unconscious with excitement.

Following McCartney, Joel played a stirring rendition of Piano Man to which everyone sang along, the last chorus without the accompanying music which was awesome.

While we had all believed the show had reached it’s conclusion, Mr. Joel signaled to somebody to come back out, and back on stage was Sir Paul McCartney, this time taking over the Piano and playing Let it Be.

It should be noted that when Mr. McCartney came back out, despite having no feeling what-so-ever in my lower back, the adrenaline must have been working overtime because I started jumping up and down again, as though the Mets had just won the world series.

Singing Let it Be along with Sir Paul McCartney will likely go down as one of the single most memorable experiences I’ll ever be fortunate enough to remember.

It was as close to an out of body experience as I think a person is capable of having.

So fittingly, despite the night clearly belonging to Bill Joel, the Last Play at Shea had it’s final song performed by one of the men who played the very first song when those curtains first opened back in 1965.

Without question, one of the greatest moments and greatest nights of my life, and something that I’ll never forget.

For anybody interested, here is the set list from Friday night’s show

Star Spangled Banner
Miami 2017 (I’ve Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)
Prelude/Angry Young Man
My Life
The Entertainer
Summer, Highland Falls
Zanzibar
Allentown
Ballad of Billy the Kid
New York State of Mind (with Tony Bennett)
Root Beer Rag
Goodnight Saigon
Don’t Ask Me Why
Keeping The Faith
The Downeaster “Alexa”
This Night
Movin’ Out
Under The Boardwalk/An Innocent Man
Shameless (with Garth Brooks)
She’s Always A Woman
Captain Jack
Lullabye
River of Dreams/A Hard Days Night
Walk This Way (with Steven Tyler)
We Didn’t Start The Fire
It’s Still Rock ‘n Roll To Me
My Generation (with Roger Daltrey)
You May Be Right

First Encore:

Scenes From An Italian Restaurant
Only The Good Die Young

Second Encore:

I Saw Her Standing There (with Paul McCartney)
Piano Man
Let It Be (with Paul McCartney)

July 20, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment