The Dark Knight Rises – Review

Opening 8 years after the events of The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises opens with an optimistic Gotham city enacting the Harvey Dent act that has made the city more secure. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and Batman haven’t been seen in those 8 years. There was no need for them. It is then that a masked man named Bane (Tom Hardy) kidnaps a Russian scientist from a CIA extraction operation and kills everyone on board of the plane so the wheels of his plans start spinning. Bane wants to bring Gotham its reckoning. He wants to break the city that has sunk so low in decadence.

In the meantime, Wayne enterprises is no longer making profit because of a very ambitious and expensive environmental-friendly project. There’s also a new player in town: Selina Kyle (Ann Hathaway), a very cunning jewel thief, who’s seeking a way to absolve her past. And as events progress, Gotham and its people sink into despair as a false sense of justice is set in. And as Bane rises, the necessity for the Batman rises as well. But will he be able to match Bane? Or will the Bat break, taking with him any hope Gotham city might have?

Simply put, The Dark Knight Rises is a very slow movie to start. And at an almost three hours running time, that’s a lot of time for it to get going. The sad part is when it gets going, it doesn’t capture the epic feel of its predecessor. It doesn’t come close to the sense of urgency that The Dark Knight entailed. It doesn’t come close to the sense of dread, fear and danger that the Joker was able to put in us – even though Bane’s plan was more dangerous.

Tom Hardy does a good job at portraying the masked villain. He is ruthless, powerful, dominating and frightening. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne and the Batman does his best portrayal of the character in all three movies of the trilogy. His characters are weakened, losing hope, wanting to feel strong again and wanting to save the city they love. He manages to convey all those opposing emotions very well.

Marion Cotillard, as Melinda Tate, a board member of Wayne Enterprise, manages to hold her own but her character is so underdeveloped that her entire presence feels underwhelming. She doesn’t manage to do what she does best and that is steal the show whenever she’s on screen. On the other hand, Michael Cain as Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s butler, and despite the little screen time that he gets is great as the man who wants to keep the boy he raised safe, out of harm’s way, and most importantly alive.

However, the most interesting cast choice was actually Ann Hathaway. She was absolutely brilliant as Selina Kyle and was probably the most fun to watch. She is terrifying, fun, quirky, powerful, afraid, vulnerable, strong…. And she manages to bring forth empathy in the viewer despite her many flaws. She’s fits into the tone Nolan set for the movie perfectly and betters it.

Gary Oldman returns as commissioner Gordon. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as John Blake, with an interesting middle name, a new addition to the police squad and a firm believer in the Batman. Morgan Freeman returns as Fox, the genius behind all the Bat techs. There are also many other characters from the previous Batman movies that will make an appearance as well. The purpose of The Dark Knight Rises is to bring things full circle.

However, instead of bringing things to a closure with a bang, The Dark Knight Rises fizzles away and ends the epic trilogy with a thud. Perhaps I expected more from the movie. Perhaps its only purpose was to bring the Bruce Wayne story arc to its emotional end. But with the long running time and the employment of so many different story lines that don’t go at odds with each other, the stage was set for The Dark Knight Rises to be much more.

The movie boasts brilliant special effects to the backdrop of a masterful score by Hans Zimmer, the best of which is Rise which plays at the movie’s last scene. But even with all of those epic components, The Dark Knight Rises falls short. It is definitely a good movie by all measures – perhaps even better than good. But the standards set forth by both of its predecessors and by Nolan’s previous works as well set the bar way too high and it seems Nolan has faltered and fallen short.

Should you watch it? Definitely. You will more than enjoy it. You will get goosebumps and you will get emotional. But you won’t go out of the movie theatre shocked like you were with The Dark Knight and you won’t go out of the theatre raving about the brilliant movie you just watched. One thing to be grateful for, however, is Nolan breaking the boundaries of comic book-based movies and delivering an Oscar-worthy trilogy that will never see any golden statuettes.

Rise, Nolan. Rise.

7/10

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Batman: The Dark Knight Rises – Teaser Poster

If you’re half as excited as I am for the upcoming Christopher Nolan Batman movie, then you must be very, very excited. Add a couple of very’s to that and you’d feel what I’m feeling. After all, how epic was The Dark Knight?

Set for a July 20, 2012 release, The Dark Knight Rises has had its teaser poster released and it is full of destruction in Gotham City. And based simply on this and the premise that with any Nolan movie, to get a city destroyed like this, he takes you on a roller coaster ride, then we’re in for one great cinematic experience.

“The Dark Knight Rises” will again star Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne (Batman), Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox and Michael Caine as Alfred. The film also stars Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard. A star studded cast that will surely work in favor of this movie.

Now, enough with the talking. Check out the poster:

The Oscars Debrief

This year’s award season to celebrate the high quality 2010 movies is over. The Academy has spoken and The King’s Speech is the big winner.

The ceremony opened up with a very funny bit of montage with this year’s hosts, James Franco and Anne Hathaway, doing acting bits in the Best Picture nominated movies. We were able to watch them be part of Inception, The Social Network, True Grit, The King’s Speech, etc… and it was quite awesome. Anne Hathaway had some awesome lines, notably when, during her “role” in The King’s Speech she says: “we come from the future with good news… we have smaller microphones” or when she freaks out Natalie Portman in Black Swan as the green duck.

And then they started their opening segment which was very dull apart from a couple Hathaway lines about how it’s been a great year for lesbians and how getting naked isn’t enough anymore to warrant a best actress nomination, taking a stab at herself for her mostly nude movie Love and Other Drugs.

Soon after that, Tom Hanks came on to present the first two awards of the night, Art Direction (Alice in Wonderland won) and Cinematography (Inception).

Then, Kirk Douglas came up to present Supporting Actress and I honestly thought it was torture. He kept pushing on the nominees’ buttons and it was pretty interesting to see them getting prepared for the results only to see him divert the subject elsewhere. Melissa Leo won this, as expected, although many had predicted an upset (myself included). Melissa Leo then a very horrible acceptance speech where she dropped the F-word, only to become the night’s go-to joke about acceptance speeches. Literally, everyone who won something referenced her in his acceptance speech.

Melissa Leo

However, soon enough, it began to look like The King’s Speech was not going to own the night as many had predicted. The race was as close as it can be. Soon enough, even Alice in Wonderland had two Oscars.

Supporting Actor went to Christian Bale, as was pretty much expected. So if anyone believes the combination of a Screen Actors Guild Award and Golden Globe doesn’t make you a lock for an Oscar win, this night proved you wrong. The “weakest” frontrunners in the acting categories came out unscathed and victorious.

In the meantime, Anne Hathaway continued a pretty overzealous and energetic hosting job by dressing up as man and taking a stab as Hugh Jackman (Or Huge Jackass as she named him) by singing and dancing about it. And just when you thought she dwarfed Franco beyond measure, he comes up on stage in pink drag. That was probably his most memorable moment. He just looked like he didn’t want to be there.

Anne Hathaway Singing At The Oscars

Continuing with the awards, Inception received both Sound-related awards, to raise its total to three, leading the night. The Social Network scored two quick wins for Best Original Score and Best Adapted Screenplay, as expected.

Then there was a bunch of awards for short films most of us hadn’t watched. Oprah then presented the award for Best Documentary. Inside Job won. I thought Oprah looked dead tired.

Documentary was soon followed by the nerve-wracking Film Editing. It has become known that the movie that wins Film Editing is the favorite to win Best Picture. And in a night where the combination of the awards handed out so far didn’t single out a clear frontrunner, this award looked like it might seal the deal. The Social Network won this and adding to its Adapted Screenplay and Original Score, it looked like we might have a Social Network sweep – again.

Russell Brand and Helen Mirren presented Best Foreign Language Film and Helen Mirren came across yet again as a superb class act by addressing the audience in fluent French. All hail to the queen!

For you animation lovers, this year’s animation phenomenon Toy Story 3 went home with the gold, winning two Oscars, one for Best Animated Feature and the second one for Best Original Song.

Speaking of Best Original Song, there were four performances, the highlight of which was A.R. Rahman and Florence Welch from Florence and the Machine singing “If I Rise”. It was a chills-inducing performance and the song deserved to win. Gwyneth Paltrow sang nominated song “Coming Home” from her latest movie “Country Strong” and I thought she did well. Randy Newman, the writer of Toy Story’s theme song “We Belong Together” mentioned how weird it was not to have a fifth song nominated. And I agree with this. “There’s A Place For Us” by Carrie Underwood for the movie Chronicles of Narnia deserved a nomination.

Later on, Inception reclaimed its title for top movie of the night by earning its fourth Oscar for Visual Effects, a much deserved win – although my heart also wanted Harry Potter to snag its first Academy Award. Which reminds me, The Wolfman won for best makeup. And I thought it was an abomination how this movie gets to flaunt an Academy Award and the whole Harry Potter series has none. Having said that, Deathly Hallows Part 2 better bring it at next year’s Oscars!

Speaking of Harry Potter, there was a funny segment as well about how “musicals” have been an important part of the business this part year. The segment comprised of dialogue parts from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, The Social Network and Twilight, among other movies, transformed into song. I thought it was pretty cool, actually.

And since it’s not the Oscars without a proper “In Memoriam” segment, Celine Dion sang a beautiful rendition of “Smile” to a montage of the pictures of industry people that have left us, commemorating their memory.

Continuing with James Franco still looking like he’d rather be anywhere but the Oscars, we get to the final and most important stretch of the night. The last four awards: Director, actor, actress and picture.

Director comes up. Drumroll, please… and what do you know, it’s our first major upset of the night. Presented by last year’s undeserving winner Kathryn Bigelow (yes, I think The Hurt Locker is such an overrated movie!) Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech overtakes David Fincher for The Social Network, who looked like a frontrunner for this category. Tom Hooper delivered a remarkable speech, telling the story of how if it weren’t for his mother, The King’s Speech wouldn’t have been made. I have to say, British people make the best acceptance speeches. This win, however, brings us back to square zero in our movie frontrunner race. Best Picture is back up for grabs.

The Best Actress category was announced by last year’s Best Actor winner, Jeff Bridges. And honestly, I much preferred last year’s nominees introduction. It just seemed so bland and rushed this year around, like they simply wanted to get it over with. These are five women who gave it their all to be where they were, at least give them the decency of properly introducing them. I still get goosebumps when remembering how Stanley Tucci introduced the great Meryl Streep and how Oprah introduced newcomer Gabourey Sidibe last year… No surprise here, however, Natalie Portman won this. She acted surprised and I thought it wasn’t that credible. Sure, you’re happy and all but come on, you’ve seen this one coming since December. It’s not like Jennifer Lawrence or Michelle Williams or even Annette Bening had a late moment surge in votes. She looked very pregnant and gave a pretty boring speech. I was thankful she did not mention her “sexual activities” with her fiance but she enumerated too many names than I care to remember. Last year’s speech by sweetheart Sandra Bullock beats this by a country mile!

Contrast it with this:

Then it was time for yet another expected category with Best Actor. We all knew Colin Firth was going to win this, but what made the category extra-special was Sandra Bullock’s introduction of the nominees. She walked the line between seriousness and humor so meticulously. She radiated with confidence. I think she should host next year’s Oscars. She is just all kinds of awesome! So yeah, Colin Firth won. He opened up his speech about how he might have hit “the apex of [his] career” and then his speech became another snooze-fest. You’d think after all the rehearsals in the movie he won for and the fact that he is British and it’s in their genes to deliver awesome acceptance speeches, he’d do a better job.

And then it was time for the moment of truth. Which movie would turn out a winner out of the two that are seriously left battling it out?

The King’s Speech came out triumphant, bringing its total to four Oscars, tying it with Inception for first place. The whole cast and producers came on stage, a speech I did not care about ensued.

Following The King’s Speech “expected” win, the P.S. 22 Chorus closed the night with their rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, the winners joined them on stage. And we’re out people!

All in all, I felt last year’s Oscars had more prestige. I thought they didn’t give the movies nominated for Best Picture their due. Each movie had a segment introducing it last year. This time around, the movies were parodied and barely mentioned when their category came up. Maybe the Academy personnel should care about delivering a better ceremony show suitable for the Oscars than a show to attract young viewers?

 

Oscar Predictions: Who Will Win (And Who Should)

The time of the year is here and in preparation for the big event tomorrow, I have decided to post my Oscar predictions.

For the full list of nominees, click here.

Best Picture:

– Who will win: The King’s Speech

– Who should win: Inception.


If you had asked me a month ago what movie was the clear favorite for best picture, I would have easily answered “The Social Network” but having not lost a single guild award it was nominated for and with it building momentum by the minute, it’s hard to see how the movie that is nominated for 12 Academy Awards will lose. However, regardless of the exquisite movie that is The King’s Speech, no other movie apart from Inception deserves this. Out of all the nominated movies, it’s the one that was the most ground-breaking this year and while many believe ground-breaking is not a criteria to warrant a best picture win (I still think Avatar was snubbed last year), in this case it does because Inception is a masterpiece.

Read up on my reviews of Inception and The King’s Speech.

Leading Actor:

– Who will win: Colin Firth for The King’s Speech


– Who should win: James Franco for 127 Hours


This category has 5 nominees. One of them has a 99% chance of winning, James Franco has a little less than 1% and the rest is divided among the other 3. Colin Firth has led a remarkable campaign and if he doesn’t win this tomorrow, it will be the biggest upset of the evening. While brilliant in his portrayal of the stuttering king, I believe James Franco had one of the best acting performances of the year. The whole movie he’s nominated for is built upon his performance, so much in fact that removing his performance out of the equation would render his movie bland. Colin Firth’s performance, while still remarkable, relied heavily on his interaction with Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter, which makes Franco’s solo act the more fascinating.

Read up on my review of 127 Hours.

Leading Actress:

– Who will win: Natalie Portman for Black Swan


– Who should win: Jennifer Lawrence for Winter’s Bone


With acting, it’s ultimately a matter of taste. I believe all of the nominated actresses are deserving of a win and it ultimately comes down to the role you preferred and out of the nominated five actresses, the one that struck a cord with me was Jennifer Lawrence in her portrayal of the struggling teenager in the dark Winter’s Bone. Natalie Portman is winning this, the only dark horse being Annette Bening for The Kids Are Alright.

Read up on my review of Winter’s Bone.

Supporting Actor:

– Who will win: Christian Bale for The Fighter

– Who should win: Christian Bale for The Fighter

To think this is the same man who played Batman in Nolan’s reboot of the franchise is daunting. He portrays his pale, drug-addict character brilliantly. He has already grabbed most of the awards related to this category and he’s the obvious frontrunner.

Read up on my review of The Fighter.

Supporting Actress:

– Who will win: Helena Bonham Carter for The King’s Speech


– Who should win: Amy Adams for The Fighter


Out of all the acting categories, this looks like it’ll be the closest one. Up until very recently, Melissa Leo was viewed as the obvious frontrunner in this but leading an Oscar campaign, where she printed out posters calling Academy members to vote for her, has left some people turned off. Add to that an exponentially increasing momentum for The King’s Speech coupled with a BAFTA win for Helena Bonham Carter followed by a brilliant speech and you might have a recipe for an upset. Regardless of that, my favorite out of the bunch remains Amy Adams for her role as the girlfriend trying to guide her significant other to find himself. A very plausible dark horse in this race is the young Hailee Steinfeld who, in my opinion, should have been nominated in the best actress category for her role in True Grit.

Best Director:

– Who will win: David Fincher for The Social Network

– Who should win: Christopher Nolan for Inception

The person who should win this isn’t even nominated. Yes, I’m glaring at the non-existent Academy member that might end up reading this. And for that, this category is almost a lock now for The Social Network’s director even though it looks like Tom Hooper, director of The King’s Speech, is giving him a run for his money.

Read up on my review of The Social Network.

Animated Movie:

– Who will win: Toy Story 3

– Who should win: How To Train Your Dragon

I’ve honestly enjoyed both movies and Toy Story 3, being nominated for best picture as well, is winning this. But my heart goes to How To Train Your Dragon, an animated movie inviting everyone to break away from stereotypes and closed bubble that society enforces upon us.

Cinematography:

– Who will win: Inception

– Who should win: Inception

No other movie deserves these technical awards because, simply, Inception was groundbreaking.

Film Editing:

– Who will win: The Social Network

– Who should win: Inception

Inception, again, isn’t even nominated here. But can you imagine watching that movie if the editing hadn’t been as top-notch as it was? It would make the near-incomprehensible movie basically “Einsteinian”. Out of the nominated movies, two come to mind with strong editing and those are: The Social Network and 127 Hours. In the latter, strong editing serves as a way to take the character away from the two rocks between which he’s stuck, allowing for some really good double-camera work and allowing the viewer to further immerse himself in this story to which he already knows the ending, making it even more fascinating to watch. The Social Network has some really great editing as well as it tells three different stories going on at different times and manages to merge them together in a very coherent way. I believe, because of buzz, The Social Network has the edge.

Visual Effects:

– Who will win: Inception

– Who should win: Inception

Even though Harry Potter is nominated for this and my heart wants it to win, the clear frontrunner here is Inception. And it’s not my bias speaking: an upside-down city, dream within a dream within a dream within a dream construct, a whole glacier-like city in limbo… no other movie deserves this as much as Inception and it will win it.

Adapted Screenplay:

– Who will win: Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network

– Who should win: Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network

The Social Network’s strength is its screenplay. It’s witty, fast and engaging. Aaron Sorkin deserves this.

Original Screeplay:

– Who will win: David Seidler for The King’s Speech

– Who should win: Christopher Nolan for Inception

I think this could go either way between both names. Inception won at the Writer’s Guild Awards but The King’s Speech was not eligible for a nomination. I want to see Christopher Nolan win this but I have a feeling it will be another casualty of a King’s Speech sweep.

Original Score:

– Who will win: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross for The Social Network

– Who should win: Hans Zimmer for Inception

After winning the Golden Globe, I believe The Social Network’s score has the momentum to take this. But I still stand by the brilliance of Inception’s score. Hans Zimmer has come up with a masterpiece that isn’t being recognized enough.

There are many more categories, of course, but I believe these are the ones most people care about.

The Fighter – Movie Review

The Fighter is a 2010 biographical boxing movie about the life of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his brother Dicky (Christian Bale).

It is a ferocious movie, sometimes violent, other times funny. And ultimately, it is a movie about the values of family more than anything else. In their tightly-knit community of Lowell, Massachusetts, the people who are cheering this fighter are ultimately the same people holding him back. And regardless of the many boxing games that you will get to see and the many adrenaline-pumping moments you will sit through, this is a movie that is sentimental. It is the story of a man, whose occupation happens to be bloody, and his quest to find himself: failed marriage, career going bad and a messed up family… this is his quest to make something out of his life. The family conflicts in this movie are even bloodier than the battles of the ring and ultimately much more interesting to watch.

The mother, played by the brilliant Melissa Leo, is running a matriarchy. Their father figure is weak to say the least. Melissa Leo, the current frontrunner for the Best Supporting Actress race at this year’s Oscars, immerses herself in her character immensely that at times you think they got this woman from some grocery store, taught her the lines and threw her in the movie. She embodies Ward’s mother in a real way that is also raw and haunting.

Christian Bale, the frontrunner for the Best Supporting Actor race, as Micky’s older half-brother Dicky, is the bad brotherly influence that you cannot escape – and ultimately always seek to impress. He used to be a hotshot boxer as well but lost it all in a spiral descent filled with drugs and whatnot. He wants to resurrect his career through his brother and in doing so, Christian Bale really shines. The sunken-eyed, pale and thin character he portrays is done so well at times that his performance is scary.

Amy Adams, as Micky’s girlfriend Charlene, is also nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards. I believe Amy Adams is one of the best new talents to come to Hollywood and this movie is yet another vehicle for her to further cement this belief. She is gorgeous, as usual, and plays the supporting girlfriend who wants to protect Micky from his own family in a raw, gut-wrenching manner. You can’t help but like her in the movie. And she is my favorite in the Best Supporting Actress race, albeit not the favorite to win.

Mark Wahlberg’s performance is low-key compared to his costars. And it’s precisely that which makes it really good. His subdued performance is the equivalent of his character. And as his voice gets stronger throughout the movie, so does his character’s. This low-key performance also symbolizes his internal struggle between staying faithful to his family and his responsibility towards himself.

All in all, The Fighter is another must see. And if you think all my reviews are ultimately about must see movies, it’s because 2010 has delivered movies of such a high caliber that not watching them would be, ultimately, a disgrace to the art of movie-making.