Batman: The Dark Knight Rises

As if this one needs an introduction. We’d hoped to see it at the IMAX as I saw the first two episodes there. Unfortunately, you have to book at least a day in advance at the Glasgow one due to their steam-powered booking system (assuming you can even find it on their web site). Also, simply due to popularity, the film is booked out for every evening performance until the middle of this week – and with Littler Miss working her way down the birth canal slower than a barge through treacle, we can’t risk blowing the cash on something we may not be able to get to. So, off to Parkhead we went. Oh, and with no concerns about trying to find a 2D showing as there was no crappy, revenue-driven urge to produce a 3D version of the film. Thank you director Christopher Nolan for putting your foot down about that one.

Batman: The Dark Knight Rises

I’ll try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible. The film follows on very closely from the end of The Dark Knight, with prisoners incarcerated as a result of the Harvey Dent Act. Gotham is free of organised crime and, as a result, the mysterious Batman has disappeared. However, this is Gotham. And this is a trilogy. So something has to happen.

Cue villain-of-the-moment Bane, born of darkness and out to destroy Batman – and Gotham City while he’s at it. It’s difficult to go too much further without giving anything much away so I’ll leave it at that and focus on the overall quality of the film. Before you see it, though, this excellent article on ScreenRant is worth a read. It’s pretty much spoiler-free!

There’s no denying the acting pedigree of the cast. Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine return as Fox and Alfred respectively. Two of the most respected actors of their generation, and deservedly so. Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, takes on a major part of the story. As well as an ensemble cast, it’s a multi-faceted story which ensures these people aren’t just background to Christian Bale‘s hoarse whispering Batman and Tom Hardy‘s muffle-voiced Bane.

Ah, yes. Bane. Huge, scary but often hard to understand. On the whole, I got most of what he said but there were some lines I just didn’t catch. In fairness, Batman was just as unintelligible one a small handful of instances.

The film runs for a long time – 2hrs 45 mins, in fact. Be prepared for a long sit and don’t expect a thrill a minute or a bucket of laughs between the action sequences. Dark Knight Rises is a dark film – very dark. Unrelenting in places. It could be worse. Some of the death scenes are cut away from rather abruptly which is probably what’s earned it the 12A rating in the UK rather than a 15.

The action and effects are, as expected, fantastic. They’re not as “big” as those in, say, Avengers Assemble, but they’re more gritty. Having said that, I found the fight sequences lacking a little something, perhaps because the two main proponents (Bane and Batman) are so heavily padded. Anne Hathaway‘s Selina Kyle (she’s not referred to as Catwoman at all during the film) are actually slightly better to watch and not just because she fills a leather outfit so well.

Expectations are bound to be high for this film and mainly as the last film was, simply put, absolutely outstanding. However, you’re never going to get that chemistry again. In fairness, all three films in the trilogy have aimed to be different as well and bearing that in mind, Dark Knight Rises is successful. It’s not like the other two, it is an intellectual level apart from other superhero films and it’s very much a wonderful piece of work.

However, it’s also not as good as I was hoping. Some of the dialogue just clunked for me and I think I was expecting more of the action scenes. I do think I’d have enjoyed it more visually if we’d caught it at the IMAX, but that’s only the visuals. The pace would still have been slow and Dark Knight would still be kicking it for overall quality.

It’s good. In fact, it’s very good. But it’s not the utterly amazing classic it’s been built up to be. It’s really only let down by its own hype and the expectations put upon it by the second episode in the series.

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Red / Burke and Hare / Easy A

Assuming that M Law Solicitors don’t demand I take down this blog post for defaming a film for giving it bad reviews (as they did with my post regarding Parking Eye, which I still maintain wasn’t defamatory as it was in the public interest), please enjoy the following catch-up from the last 2 weeks’ abuse of my Cineworld pass.

Red

“Time to open up the pig”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: a group of retired secret agents take on the CIA to find out who’s put them on a “to be killed” list.

This is another in the current run of bigger-than-life action films that seem to be putting bums on seats at the moment. It’s also one of the best, mainly due to a novel idea and a superb cast. Come on – Helen Mirren with guns? How can that not be cool?

The rest of the eldsters are played by Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman. Freeman could be in the biggest cinematic turd in history and would still make his sequences worth watching, but fortunately Red is no such bum-dropping and is instead just good fun.

There’s plenty of action and it makes full use of the common trend of using CGI rather than stuntmen to a large degree. I still prefer more old-school effects (Raiders is the best Indy film by a mile for several reasons, this being one of them), but it doesn’t stop Red being any less enjoyable.

Definitely go see.

Burke and Hare

“That… would be an artery”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Two Irish guys stumble across a nice way of making money – selling corpses to a medical school. Only what happens when they run out of fresh meat?

Honestly, can Simon Pegg do know wrong? I honestly don’t think I’ve seen him in a film I’ve not enjoyed yet. When you add the likes of Andy Serkis and Tim Curry to the cast, then top it off with Ronnie Corbett it would take some kind of miracle to destroy it. Get John Landis to direct and you may as well buy your ticket without seeing a review.

Burke and Hare is perfect Halloween fodder. It’s set in the 19th century, it’s grisly, it’s tasteless and it’s funny. I’d not recommend it for younger kids due to some of the scenes being a little too “eeeeewww” but other than that it’s superb.

There are loads of little references in the background (Greyfriar’s Bobby makes an appearance) and the original historical tale does make for decent film material, even if the facts have been moulded somewhat.

Looking at the other horrors available this Halloween, this has to be the best of the bunch.

Easy A

“That’s the one thing that trumps religion… capitalism”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: shy teen pretends to nob schoolmates for cash/vouchers until it all goes too far

I didn’t expect to enjoy this, despite the trailer being “OK”. After all, it’s a teen-girl-at-a-school film, and they’re pretty formulaic. I just went as it was on at a good time for me to fill 90 minutes of an afternoon.

Oh, I love it when I’m proved wrong.

Easy A has a fantastic script, beautiful dialogue, an in credible wit and a decent story. Emma Stone is excellent as Olive, the girl who gets talked into pretending to sleep with a gay classmate to stop him being bullied for his sexuality. Who then recommends him to others, until she’s made out to be the school slut.

The supporting cast are all well-played from her hilarious family, to the wise-cracking English teacher and the bonkers Christian brigade. There genuinely is not a dull moment.

While Olive does bemoan the fact that her life story wasn’t directed by John Hughes, it could have been. It’s that good.

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Film Feast

"Invictus" sneak preview in Hsinchu,...
Invictus (honestly!)

Four Film Friday this time – Invictus, Youth in Revolt, Astro Boy and Edge of Darkness. I’ll try to get through them quickly…

Invictus

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) becomes President of South Africa and decides to use the upcoming Rugby World Cup as a means of unifying the country.

I don’t like rugby, on the whole. This worked in my favour going into this film as it’s based on real events and I didn’t know what the outcome would be as I had no idea who won the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Clint Eastwood directs, Freeman is – as ever – simply superb and Matt Damon captains the Springboks.

How close is it to what really happened? Who knows. I’m sure there are certain key scenes and events which mirror history but there’s always room for dramatisation (Wikipedia has a small list). Thankfully it’s not overly-sentimental or symbolic, though it does push this from time to time.

Both Freeman and Damon pull off decent accents although some of the other actors appear somewhat stilted, especially towards the beginning of the movie.

This is a good film. Not overstated, not grandstanding, and a very good story. The obvious link between a battered country finding its feet and being led by someone who’s overcoming the odds is very much mirrored by their rugby team’s efforts. If I have a complaint, it’s the huge over-use of slow-motion to enhance “dramatic effect” near the end.

Youth in Revolt

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Boy meets girl, boy has to become bad boy to get girl, boy goes a little too far…

Michael Cera plays two parts in this film – Nick and the alter-ego Francois that he creates to get the girl, Sheeni (Portia Doubleday). The only other film I’ve seen Cera in was Superbad and that lived up to its title. Youth in Revolt is marginally better but still lacks greatness.

If there’s one thing that stands out, it’s the amusing animated segments interspersed throughout the live action. They don’t really add to the story, but they’re amusing and the one at the start got one of the loudest laughs in the theatre. It’s worth watching the one over the end credits as well.

Amusing in places, messy in others. Next!

Astro Boy

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Scientist creates uber-bad killer robot, and also a robotic replica of his dead son. Cue obvious battle.

I’m not a Manga geek so I don’t know how this hold up to the original, however it’s kind of “OK” as a CGI Hollywood version. There’s no denying the quality of the voice cast: Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland, Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Nighy, Charlize Theron… However, the script needs more work. Or more jokes.

Visually it’s nice, but CGI films are all starting to look a little samey now. There’s no real imagination in Astro Boy. If you want a mechanical visual feast, check out Robots from a few years back.

The kids will like its simplicity, but adults will miss the added depths, double meanings and references present in films such as Toy Story or Planet 51.

Edge of Darkness

Plot-in-a-nutshell – a cop’s daughter is gunned down in front of him on his doorstep, so he sets out to find out who did it

This film is based on a BBC drama from some years ago which I vaguely recall watching. Obviously, it’s been shifted to the US but well re-written to make it fit both geographically and in a modern timeline.

However, while the drama had several hour-long episodes to fit everything in, the film version has only 117 minutes. As a result, Mel Gibson‘s efforts to locate his daughter’s killer and work his way through the conspiracy tree is often a little messy.

Ray Winstone’s role is rather hard to pin down. We know he’s there but who the hell actually is he? Other than an English guy who swears a lot (i.e. he’s playing himself again).

The film begins well enough, but the thrills and spills promised by the trailer really don’t occur. There’s a lot of soul-searching and threats by Gibson’s character mixed with very occasional bursts of fast driving. It is a drama, not an action thriller – but the trailer is misleading.

It’s a good story, too. But as I said it’s compressed into too short a time. Some questions are left unanswered while other bits of evidence are thrown in and the viewer is left wondering where they came from.

Well-acted, good story but just not suited for film form without better scripting.

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