Sunday, July 22, 2012

HE IS RISEN: The Dark Knight Rises Review

This is the most anticipated film of the year. The one we've all been waiting for. And it's finally here. But before I begin my review I'd like to extend my personal condolences to the families of the Aurora shootings. For someone to calculatingly carry out such a heinous and senseless deed is the height of depravity and shame, and I hope that this man, James Eagan Holmes, suffers for his crime.
Alright, so many of you have heard me talk about this film for God knows how long and now you finally get to hear what I think. And in a word? Genius. Christopher Nolan is the only director who could take an ending like this one and really make it work. But I'm getting ahead of myself, so let's start at the beginning:
It's been 8 years since Batman took the fall for Harvey Dent's (aka Two-Face's) murders, and now Gotham is at peace. But the lie that allowed that peace to take shape has eaten away at both Bruce Wayne and Commissioner James Gordon. Bruce has shut himself away in his stately Wayne Manor, and rumors circulate that he's decrepit and disfigured, Gotham's hunchback of Notre Dame if you will. Enter Selina Kyle.
If Heath Ledger's Joker stole the show in The Dark Knigt, Anne Hathaway literally steals it in TDKR. I'll try to avoid spoiling the film for anyone who hasn't yet seen it (and if you haven't—really?) but she basically does an Inception style acting job in here. This Selina Kyle makes you forget about Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman, and she is just brilliant.
Meanwhile, we're introduced to Joseph-Gordon Levitt as John Blake, and this movie is just as much about him as it is about Bruce Wayne. The man known as JGL gives a rousing performance as Blake, and is as much the heart of this film as Alfred is. If you take away the wealth, his story is as intriguing as Brice Wayne's. I can't spoil it for anyone who hasn't yet seen the film, but he is one to watch out for.
And then there's Bane. I like many people were soundly disgusted by his treatment in The Film That Shall Not Be Named, but he gets justice in this go-round. Tom Hardy is gold in this. He is ruthless, calculating, pure evil in this film. And his performance is driven through his eyes—those EYES!! My God, he scared the living daylights out of me. He really gives Batman the fight of his life, and it was heart-wrenching to say the least. I did have some issues with his voice, especially in the prologue, but you really tune into it, especially in repeat viewings.
Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Mighael Caine and Marion Cotillard round out the rest of the supporting cast in TDKR, and every one of them brings their A-game. Caine has some of the most tear-inducing scenes in this film, and he really makes you feel Alfred's heartbreak for Bruce. Oldman gives his finest Gordon performance yet, as does Freeman as Lucius Fox. But Marion-oh, Marion!-she's a surprise. It's really her that brings everything full circle. In addition, the man who will be Azghar√°th makes a return, and I squee'd like I've never squee'd before. Also, congrats to Cillian Murphy who becomes the first Bat-villain to make an appearance in all three films.
Now, the performances were fantastic and I was happy with the ending, but it wasn't what I personally wanted. Nevertheless you could really see the influence Nolan took from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, and rumor has it that Jonah Nolan originally crafted a 400-page epic of a film. And honestly, I felt this could have been a longer film. At two hours and forty-five minutes it's definitely long, but Nolan's storytelling efficiency is such that at no point do you feel that it's too long. But if there's a director's cut of this film, I have only four words for Mr. Nolan: GIVE IT TO US!
In short, The Dark Knight Rises is a masterful conclusion to the definitive cinematic portrayal of Batman, and in my mind Christopher Nolan has done just as much for the character as Bob Kane himself. I encourage everyone to see this film multiple times, and to celebrate Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy. As a Batfan I could not be happier. Indeed, he is risen. Thank you, Christopher Nolan for giving Batman the treatment he deserves. Long live Batman.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

WELCOME BACK WEBHEAD: The Amazing Spider-Man Review

I am first and foremost a comic book fan. And while Batman is my all-time favorite superhero, Peter Parker aka Spider-Man is a close second. So naturally, I had seen Sam Raimi's take on the wall-crawler—yes, even the lackluster SPIDER-MAN 3—when they originally came out over 10 years ago. And, naturally, I was highly dubious of a Spidey reboot, especially given how fresh Raimi's final installment in the original trilogy really wasn't all that long ago. But I'm glad to say that after seeing the aptly-named Marc Webb's ("(500) Days of Summer") debut foray into both the big-budget and comic book movie universe, all I can say is that he outdid Sam Raimi. And Joss Whedon. And outdid them DIRTY. Yes, that's a bold statement. And yes, "THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN" has its flaws (I'm looking at you, guys who did the CG effects on The Lizard!!) but the pros vastly outweigh the cons. TASM is a visually stunning and emotionally gripping film, spectacularly cast and magically written (yes, that pun was intended for legendary Harry Potter screenscribe Steve Kloves). I have no problem saying that it was better than THE AVENGERS, and I know many people would disagree with me, but while I give every movie the benefit of the doubt, my hat has to tip in Spider-Man's favor. I liked THE AVENGERS, make no mistake. But I wasn't able to take the journey WITH those characters. In TASM, I got to take a journey with Peter Parker, and a very believable one (now, if only I had a genetically enhanced spider to nip me on the neck, we'd be all set). Andrew Garfield is a self-professed Spidey fanboy, and man does it show onscreen. He gets EVERY aspect of both Peter and Spider-Man, and I could believe him much more easily than I could believe Tobey Maguire. Garfield plays every maskless scene as Parker with nuanced awkwardness so befitting of the character, and it was a joy to watch his development from zero to hero. His real-life love interest (the lucky bastard!!) Emma Stone shines as Gwen Stacy, and it's great to watch their natural offscreen chemistry translate seamlessly onscreen. Stone gives Gwen equal parts strength and sensitivity, and her natural charm and humor places her firmly as one of the most irresistible comic book movie female leads to date. Webb was very wise in making their relationship the core of the film, a solid foundation to build the story on. But surrounding these trailblazing up-and-comers is a great veteran cast led by Martin Sheen as Ben Parker, who is (in my opinion) a far more relatable Uncle Ben than the late, great Cliff Robertson. That's not to knock Robertson's overall performance in the Raimi trilogy, but Sheen plays a far more transparent Ben, which makes his (*SPOILER!!*) inevitable death all the more tragic. Sally Field is marvelous as Aunt May, and there is a far different and interesting dynamic between her and Peter in this go-round. And of course I couldn't NOT mention Dennis Leary, who gives a surprisingly stirring performance as Capt. Stacy, Gwen's father. I've always enjoyed Rhys Ifans' acting, so I was excited to see him back on the screen. His portrayal of Dr. Curt Connors is very good, although not the best villain this summer (Tom Hiddleston's Loki holds that spot until July 20th) but overall he gave a very good performance. For a first-time action director, Webb shows that he can indeed handle a perfect balance between emotionally engaging small scenes and great action setpieces. The film flows at a pace comparable to "Batman Begins" and is, in my overall opinion, far better than "The Avengers".