Monday, 23 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises, 2012
Directed by Christopher Nolan

I remember the summer of 2008. The Dark Knight was released, and there was a massive buzz around it. Even working at summer camp with hardly any link to the outside world, we all knew The Dark Knight was the movie to see. And though I was never a superhero fan (I generally enjoyed the first two Spiderman films, and had watched Batman Begins once), I was excited to see it. I got home from camp, and saw it with my father right away.

And that's how I came to love and appreciate the Batman trilogy. After that, I was more interested  in Batman Begins (a film which I still really really love), and of course, loved The Dark Knight, and rooted so hard for Heath Ledger at the Oscars, and will defend to this day that he still would've won even if he hadn't have died.

Superhero movies were never really things I could get into. They were superhuman people, "doing the right thing" and "saving the world" from "evil". They were all kind of the same, and therefore uninteresting. But Christopher Nolan didn't make superhero movies when he made Batman, they're more intellectual and psychological than that. They're complex and political, character driven, and dark. And this most recent addition is the most complex, character-driven and darkest yet. While Captain America, Spiderman, etc weren't that light of movies, The Dark Knight Rises makes them look incredibly simple and fluffy.

This film is set 8 years after after the events of the Dark Knight. Bruce Wayne is a recluse, mourning what the Joker did to Gotham, and having let Batman take the fall for Harvey Dents murder, leaving the people of Gotham to remember him as a good person. Meanwhile, Gotham is in good hands. Organized crime has been swept up, things are looking good, and it's a time of peace for Gotham. But as Selina Kyle says, a cat burglar who finds the attention of Bruce Wayne, "a storm is coming". And come it does. Bane is a terrorist, intent on taking over Gotham, and while young John Blake, a young curious cop, is intent on handling him, alongside Jim Gordon, things don't go as planned. And it seems Gotham once again needs Batman.

As stated, I'm a Batman fan. No, not in the way of having seen all the old Batman films, but I really enjoy Nolan's trilogy because it's not that "superhero" and it's complex, and intelligent. There are so many mindless action movies out there (think Battleship, Transformers, etc) that it really becomes exciting when something so intelligent and complex like The Dark Knight Rises comes out. It's a brain movie, not one just for the eyes (though this one is particularly striking).

I'm not going to lie, this film is not as straight-forward as Batman Begins or the Dark Knight were, and there were a few times where I wasn't positive who everyone was, what they were about, and what was going on. Additionally, what ended up being the main problem (after like 1 1/2 hours), was a bomb and the race against its detonation. While I found this to be quite cliche (how many movies are there about this!?), and Nolan could've given Bane something way more original and he deserved more than that, it still made for an interesting watch, and with Christopher Nolan, you never really know where he's going to take you in this. Ever since he killed off Rachel Dawes, I've never really known what to expect from him. But nonetheless, it was slightly cliche, but it worked incredibly well for this film, and didn't come off as cliche while watching.

Additionally, there were several different things going on at all times, and it seemed Bruce Wayne/Batman were thrown in as an afterthought a few times. At the fore-front of this film we have Bane, played by Tom Hardy, with menacing mask and voice and brute strength. We have Selina Kyle, played by Anne Hathway. I still laugh thinking of all the nay-sayers who were upset at Hathaway being cast as Catwoman. Hathaway was the star of the show, and gave the best performance of the cast. She was witty and sexy, and was totally awesome and was an awesome female addition at the cast, where the previous two films had been incredibly male dominated. It was nice to see a woman out there who wasn't Rachel, and who could fend for herself. And then we have John Blake, played the new hot-and-in demand star Joseph Gordon-Levitt. For a while the film almost feels like the John Blake show, him being a new and curious cop who's a big Batman believer. All three give great performances, and John Blake was a welcome new character who gave a different side to the police side when Jim Gordon wasn't available, and was the ultimate "good guy".

Normally, I don't find actions movies to be that "visually stunning" as some people would call them. Yes, there's good graphics and car chases, but I describe movies like 2005's Pride & Prejudice as visually stunning. But I'd toss it out there that The Dark Knight Rises is the best looking film in the trilogy. The cinematography was particularly gorgeous (all the scenes in the snow, gorgeous), the scenery was great and everything just looked so good.

Overall, I really enjoyed the film. Yes, there were a couple plot holes and things that got wrapped up really quickly, as well as there was a little too much going on at a few points that I found it a little tricky to follow, but that's what the second viewing is for (which will probably be next weekend). This movie had incredible expectations. And while my friends and I all knew we weren't going to get something better than The Dark Knight, I went in not expecting a whole lot from this film other than it was going to be awesome and intelligent, and that's exactly what I got. This was Nolan's opus of the three films. He was the conductor, and the composer, giving everyone different and complex parts, but weaving them all together effectively to make a beautiful movie.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and look forward to having a second viewing so I can completely grasp everything that happened, who everyone was, and pick up on more of the little things that happened that got lost in the wide-eyed viewing of the first round.

Will this film end up making a Best Picture run? While a movie like The Dark Knight deserved it, I'm less sure about this one, though wouldn't be too surprised to see it up there on Oscar morning. However, I'd say it's less likely, and fanboys shouldn't hold their breath, but we'll see in the coming months, I suppose. It has great shots within the technical aspects, and I'd love to see it up for Best Score, as Hans Zimmer always delivers.

Overall, a great film, and definitely this years best blockbuster by far. A worthy ending to the ending of one of the best and more beloved trilogys of all time. And if this entire film wasn't fantastic, the last few minutes (give or take 10 to 15) are the most shining moments and the very perfect wrap up. I wish I could share exactly what happened, but to me, Nolan wrapped things up in his own way, and did it perfectly. It's a perfect sequence, and is the shining moment of the film.

Acting- 8/10
Directing- 8.5/10
Screenplay- 8/10
Music - 9/10
"The look"- 9/10
Entertaining- 9.5/10
Emotional Connection- 9.5/10
Rewatchability- 9/10
Did I like It?- 9/10
"Total Package"**- 8/10 

Total: 87.5

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

In The Heat of the Night

In the Heat Of the Night, 1967
Directed by Norman Jewison
Nominated for 7 Oscars, Won 5
Up Against: Bonnie and Clyde, Doctor Dolittle, The Graduate, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

In The Heat of the Night is a part murder mystery, part story on racism. It stars Sydney Poitier as Virgil Tibbs, an African-American homicide detective who finds himself in Sparta, Mississippi the night a man is murdered. He's asked by his commander back on the Philadelphia Police Force to stay and help uncover the killer. And while Tibbs has already been treated to racism (he's immediately plucked as a suspect by another policeman because he was black and was carrying a large sum of money in his wallet), he agrees to work alongside Gillespie, the head officer in town, after the widow of the victim is impressed with Tibbs clearing an innocent man on the murder charges when Gillespie arrested him with little evidence.

Tibbs goes on to clear several men of their names after being arrested with shaky evidence, and starts to earn the respect of Gillespie, despite the fact that he's annoyed Tibbs is taking over the investigation and knows more than he does.

This film came out in a time when racism in the south was still going on, and it ended up becoming a very big hit. It got excellent reviews all-around. The infamous slapping scene was pivotal and the lines, "they call me mr. tibbs" is a famous quote.

In all honesty, while I know this film is beloved, I wasn't the biggest fan. I thought it was a little dull, a little slow-moving, and not that interesting. Sure, Tibbs uncovering the whodunit was good, and it had a bit of a twist to it, but overall the process wasn't all that interesting. However, showing the racism in that small town was definitely effectual. It was interesting every time someone sneered about Tibbs being around, but when he mentions he's a police officer, he generally gets a little bit more respect. While it never really hit me how annoying racism probably was for blacks back then, this film really showed it. Tibbs was a hard-working guy, with a respectable career, making good money, and not dealing with as much racism in Philly. But come down south, everything is different. The smallest things, people sneer at you, don't want you in the room, and make racist comments like you're not even there. This was a good perspective that they brought out, even if I wasn't so crazy about the film overall.

Honestly, I felt the film was just alright. The acting wasn't amazing, the sets and costumes weren't that amazing, the story was just alright. It's interesting to see how much of the nominees for Best Picture I actually knew that year (I usually don't know many of them in years before 2000). However, this film was just alright, and surprises me a little bit that it won. However, given the time period and what was going on in America at the time, I guess it's not that surprising. It's a story on a black man and a white man working together, in a time when that didn't happen.

Acting- 8/10 
Directing- 7.5/10 
Screenplay- 7/10 
Visuals- 7/10 

Music- 7/10 Emotional Connection- 7.5/10 
Entertainment- 7.5/10 
Rewatchability- 6/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 7.5/10 

Overall Package- 7.5/10     
Total: 72.5/100

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man, 2012
Directed by Marc Webb
Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, and Rhys Ifans

We all know the story of Spiderman. Nerdy high school boy Peter Parker, bitten by radioactive spider, gains superpowers and becomes Spiderman. Best known in the movie forms that starred Tobey Macguire and Kirsten Dunst, in the form of 3 films.

Well, here we are in 2012, only 5 years since Spider-Man 3 came out. It's a "whole new origins story", now starring the critically acclaimed Andrew Garfield, and the new comedienne Emma Stone. While I remember being extremely skeptical when this "reboot" was announced, I slowly warmed to the idea when I saw the first trailer, and saw Andrew as Peter.

It's not secret that I have a huge celebrity crush on Andrew Garfield and love his acting. He was particularly phenomenal in Never Let Me Go, and I personally thought he deserved an acting nomination over Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network. However, I digress.

While the trailer and commercials and posters have promised an origins story for Peter and his alter ego, I'd say that was a little more of a let down. There's wasn't too much origins, though it was more of a relationship/personal movie than an action one, which I respect.

I haven't watched any of the Spider-Man movies for a very long time, so I can't really remember how well they resemble each other. Obviously, there were various things that happened that also happened in the Raimi version, such as Uncle Ben's death, the idea of the responsibility to do the right thing should you have the power to do it and, obviously, getting bitten by a radioactive spider and developing his costume and persona.  However, these things had to happen, and they did it in a different way than the original Raimi versions did.

Peter's reaction to his gaining of superpowers was extremely well-done, I thought. It was done in a realistic way, a way that I could imagine myself reacting. Breaking everything, being very confused, and just trying to ignore they happened and move on. The sequence in the bathroom and in his bedroom after that was well done. Additionally, once Peter had finally officially suited up and was roaming the streets for his Uncle's killer, we got a smart-talking Spider-Man, which was very fun. He had some fantastic lines, and made the whole thing quite amusing without overdoing it too much.

While the sequences with Peter were very good, it takes quite a bit into the movie for the Lizard to finally appear. It's not until about halfway through (which is at least an hour in) that Dr. Curt Connors finally turns into the Lizard. And if there were any plot-holes that I could complain about (and there were a few), it'd be more with the Lizard than with Peter or Peter and Gwen. While some the fighting sequences looked amazing (possible Oscar attention for Visual Effects? I'd say it's very possible), there were too many times when the Lizard has him in his grips and doesn't really do anything to Peter. Sure, tell me that villains like to torture their victims or whatever, or the director tried to make it suspenseful, but I thought it was a bit lazy.

In fact, while I enjoyed the movie, I felt like the Lizard was kind of the last thing planned in the story, as though it was decided they were going to do a Spider-man movie, and would do Gwen Stacy and be all comic-book, and oh yeah we need a villain. The Lizard sound ok? While it was an okay villain, it felt like it was way less planned out that Peter's story was, and while I understand this movie was an 'origins' story, I would've liked the villain to make more sense.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. However, this is probably due to the fact that Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield were fantastic and I feel like I probably wouldn't have liked the movie as much if they weren't in it. Andrew Garfield is a solid actor and has done some good work thus far, and, I find, to be very under-appreciated. He gave a great performance in this film. Though he's about 29 years old, I thought he was able to strike that teenager attitude well. While he didn't exactly look 17 (I'd say he looked about 21, which isn't too bad for a high school movie if you really think about it), he captured the typical walk teen guys have, and had great chemistry with Emma Stone (duh), and really pulled off the cutesyness well. I just really like Andrew Garfield here, okay guys?

Overall, I enjoyed this reboot. It was fun, it was funny, quirky, cute, with some good action sequences. I'd even hazard to say it's been my favourite Superhero movie of the year thus far (okay, there's only been two, but I didn't like the Avengers, so there you have it.) though I know that'll change in a few weeks time when Batman is released.

(no, I didn't love it, and yes my favourite superhero movie of the year so far gets a 7)