The Dark Knight Rises (7/20/12) [Spoiler-free]

Movie One Hundred Seventy Two

The Dark Knight Rises concludes Christopher Nolan’s spectacular Batman trilogy with Bruce Wayne donning the suit of Gotham’s hero for perhaps the final time.

Picking up eight years after the end of The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises has Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) living in seclusion, except for Alfred (Michael Caine) of course, after he uses Batman as a martyr and sets Harvey Dent up as Gotham’s real hero. During a party at Wayne Manor, Bruce finds a young woman stealing his mother’s necklace and taking his fingerprints. Bruce soon finds out this woman is Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and she is selling Wayne’s fingerprints for a plot by Bane (Tom Hardy) to bring down Bruce Wayne and also Gotham city itself. With the assistance of old friend Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), “hotheaded” rookie cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and board member Miranda (Marion Cotillard), Bruce Wayne must come out of the shadows to become Batman and save Gotham before Bane destroys everything.

There are no doubt going to be people that walk away from The Dark Knight Rises disappointed, it’s inevitable. And yes, there are some disappointing things about the film, but nitpicking aside, it shows some of the strongest filmmaking of the trilogy and I would say it actually exceeded my expectations by a fair margin. Christopher and Jonathan Nolan have pulled out all the stops for The Dark Knight Rises and I will say that the action grabs you by the throat early on and doesn’t even let up, though the film throws a lot at you to begin with so that helps keep you on your toes.

While I did not view this film on an IMAX screen (I will in a few weeks, though) there is obvious care taken to filming and I could safely guess which portions of the film were shot for IMAX. The sets are somehow even grander than The Dark Knight and Gotham feels larger too. Both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were filmed here in Chicago and The Dark Knight Rises was filmed elsewhere (Philadelphia, I believe Pittsburgh) so that may play a part in this. Most surprising for me was the high quality acting, Michael Caine especially. It would be forgivable for a comic book film to have the actors mostly phone it in, but the actors all truly deliver here. The only exception would possibly be Tom Hardy as Bane…

Which leads me to my few nitpicking gripes about the The Dark Knight Rises. Bane is my biggest peeve since he sounds like a cross between Hardy’s earlier role in Bronson and Sean Connery doing a Peter Sellers impersonation. Obviously test audiences had a hell of a time understanding Bane when he talked, so they made his voice this way on purpose and it sits high in the mix too. At least he is clearly audible. My other main gripe is that the CGI is a bit uneven. Nolan is fantastic at using real sets for his stunts so maybe the CGI portions just stood out because of this, but I thought some of the bits looked a bit flat.

I was not expecting to be surprised by The Dark Knight Rises and yet I was. Several times, in fact. While Christopher Nolan may not be returning to Batman films anytime, I hope he and and his brother are at the very least creative consultants on the next set of Batman films. In case you are wondering if I prefer this film over The Dark Knight, it’s a close call. In fact, I would rate all three of Nolan’s Batman films 5/5 so technically I can be noncommittal and say they all tie! I will be seeing The Dark Knight Rises again very soon and I honestly cannot wait. This is a real contender for best film of 2012.

I give it 5 Pee-Wee Herman narrates the trailers out of 5.

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Memento (4/14/12)

MementoMovie Eighty Five

Memento is the type of movie that plays with your mind so much that you may want to immediately watch it again as soon as the credits start rolling. After their success with the Batman franchise, I think the Nolan brother’s other films  have gotten the proper attention than when they were released.

There is literally no other film like Memento and there are few who could write or direct a film as interweaving without making a total mess of things. The continuity alone could destroy a film like this. Luckily for us, Memento may be confusing to follow but it is a taut psychological thriller.

The film happens in reverse order and are spliced between a scene that happens in regular time. The two timelines eventually become one at the film’s climax. The main character, Leonard (Guy Pearce), sustained an injury and has a condition that prevents him from retaining any short term memories. He does, however, remember everything that happened up until his injury, including the rape and death of his wife. His mission is vengeance for his wife, but his condition makes this tricky. He keeps notes and Polaroids to help as well as tattoos, but we soon learn his methods are not perfect and the people around him may be deceiving him on purpose.

When a film has a reverse sequence of events it is usually hard to surprise the audience, but Memento does. Information is slowly trickled to us and things begin to make sense for us, but it’s easy to forget some things that just happened, much like Leonard’s condition.

While not a perfect film, Memento makes it hard to dislike. What could easily feel gimmicky or cliche is done with care and will likely leave you second guessing everything you are seeing happen in front of you. Few films can present everything in a manner that shows but also deceives without going over your head. Be sure to pay close attention when watching for all the clues.

I give it 5 Memento timeline explanations out of 5. (spoiler warning for those that haven’t seen the film)

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