Viewed – 02 August 2012 Cinema
How does one go about reviewing the biggest movie of the year? In a summer that has seen several comic book characters take to the big screen, you would think the return of Batman would sit happily alongside the likes of Thor, The Hulk and Spidy. But nothing could be further from the truth. Director Christopher Nolan (Inception) has crafted a trilogy that is not only a reinvention but also something that has never been done before in a comic-book adaptation. These movies are darker, creepier and more ‘real’ than any other Bat outing, and at first they took me by surprise, and I wasn’t sure if I liked the new approach. But something Nolan has done, is make not only Batman relevant again, but made the super-hero movie new and fresh and dare I say it, important to cinema as a whole.
This time around Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is a recluse and Batman hasn’t appeared for six years, following taking the rap for the murder of famed politician Harvey (Two-Face) Dent in the previous movie. Yet a new threat lurks in the sewers, that of mercenary Bane (Tom Hardy) and his gang of terrorists, who plan on taking over Gotham City and bringing it to its knees. There is also a lithe cat-burglar willing to do anything to clear her name in the shape of Seline Kyle (Ann Hathaway) who of course is Catwoman in all but name. Can a world-weary Bruce Wayne take on this new threat, or has he hung up his cowl for good? I think we all know the answer to that one.
Nolan’s swan-song for the franchise is every bit the gritty, real-world thriller that came before, and in Tom Hardy’s utterly disturbing Bane we have a villain to (almost) rival the late Heath Ledger’s Joker. Hathaway’s Catwoman seems more of an after-thought in comparison with barely any back-story and very little to her other than looking great in skin-tight spandex, but her performance still nails the sexy good-girl / bad-girl of the character well. Bale’s Wayne/Batman is probably his best performance of the character yet, with much of the deep self-reflection of Batman Begins as well as the all out action hero of The Dark Knight. Add to this a wealth of solid, expertly shot action sequences (the new ‘bat’ plane – “this is no car!” – awesome) and this makes for the boldest entry of the entire franchise. The writing does get a little sloppy, with a few too many ‘huh?’ moments for my liking. There is also a theatricality to some of the acting that could be seen as a bit OTT (Michael Caine). Yet overall Christopher Nolan proves himself once again a skilled craftsman – and this still packed one helluva punch.
Verdict: 4 /5
- ‘Rises’ Is More Like ‘Begins’ Than ‘Knight’, and That’s a Good Thing (Short Ends and Leader) (popmatters.com)
- ‘Dark Knight’ rises to perfect ending (lfpress.com)
- The Dark Knight Rises (2012) (timneath.wordpress.com)
Viewed – 10 February 2012 DVD
It would be easy to pass off many animated movies these days as simply more of the same, and although this likable entry has the same old themes, such as believing in yourself, fish out of water etc, it has enough comedy, lush visuals and all round ‘fun’ to make it worth your while. Blu is a rare breed Macaw, who having been captured by poachers as a baby, soon becomes the pet of a young girl. Over fifteen years they become inseparable. Then one day a wildlife expert spots Blu and offers to take him and his owner to Brazil where he knows about a female Macaw, and if they hit it off, it could mean the saving of the species. That is until a band of ruthless smugglers intervene.
From the guys behind the Ice Age movies, this is a vibrant and instantly enjoyable movie. The voice acting, whilst nothing special adds personality, with Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway delivering the goods as the two Macaws. The relationship between Blu and his owner is pretty much the same as that seen in other movies such as Bolt, and as a story, it’s fairly predictable. Thankfully the gag factor is more hit than miss and the increasingly entertaining situations (with a memorable carnival chase) mean it never gets tiresome, and support characters like a rapping bird voiced brilliantly by The Black Eyed Peas’ Will.I.AM. and a salivating bulldog, brought more than a few giggles my way. The Rio de Janeiro setting is also gorgeous and enhances the whole movie, meaning that all in all – this is one to see.
Verdict: 4 /5
Viewed – 30 August 2010 DVD
Anne Hathaway furthermore destroys that squeaky clean image that made her famous in teen comedies like The Princess diaries with this gritty urban drama following two bored young women, rebelling against their rich, privileged surroundings. After a drug-fueled trip into the crime filled district of East L.A. ends with Hathaway’s boyfriend almost getting shot by a gang of Latino hoodlums, Hathaway and best friend Bijou Phillips (Hostel: Part II) find the lure of the neighbourhood appealing, but soon discover their thirst for danger comes at a price.
Freddy Rodriguez plays the leader of the Spanish gang and brings some cool attitude to proceedings (even if the home boy posturing boarders on satire at times), and director Barbara Kopple offers a warts and all viewpoint on a subject that is all too familiar and well trodden. Hathaway surprised me, delivering much of the sincerity and range showcased in the acclaimed Rachel Getting Married, and wasn’t (like Bijou too) afraid of getting naked either. Yet this overly-familar movie (see: Thirteen) feels like just one of a crowd, with the Latino gangs portrayed stereotypically, with few redeeming features … and it would have been better if Rodriguez showed a little more humanity than the one-note thug he is becoming type-cast as. It also plays things too safe, having little guts to show the true consequences of the two girls actions, therefore diluting the movie’s attempt at social commentary.
For style, a pumping soundtrack and some decent acting, this passes the time – but for me it lacked the balls to really deliver.
Verdict: 3 /5
Viewed – 22 March 2009 Cinema
Director Jonathan Demme returns to the directing chair after a brief hiatus since his last film The Manchurian Candidate in 2004. Although not overly familiar with his work, I must admit that his adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs is in my opinion one of the finest serial killer thrillers ever made. This time we’re on smaller turf with this very raw portrait of a young woman, Kym (Anne Hathaway) returning to the family home on the eve of her sister’s wedding, having just come out of rehab. Hathaway breaks free from the squeaky clean image she played so well in films like The Princess Diaries & The Devil Wears Prada, and is immediately intriguing as someone with more than a few problems. Faced with the prospect of seeing her family again and how her past actions may have altered their perception of her, Kym struggles to ‘play along’ with the occasion despite everything.
This gritty film feels like we’re eves dropping on a family occasion with its fly-on-the-wall approach and jump-cut camera work reminiscent of Mike Leigh. Demme is obviously going for the less Hollywood-ised approach here, and it works well, pulling you into events whilst never loosing the realism. Hathaway is wonderful, well supported by a good cast, all of which you completely believe, especially Rosemary Dewitt as Rachel, and a near-unrecognisable Debra Winger.
Although the film does explore some of the darker aspects of Kym’s life and her actions in the past, I felt it was played a bit safe at times, seeming to only really come alive late on in the film, and the focus on the rather unconventional wedding arrangements came across heavy handed and annoying, when I would have preferred to discover more about this troubled character. Still, this is well acted and absorbing, with a career best so far from Anne Hathaway that marks her out as an actress to watch.
Verdict: 3 /5