TBT – Now You See Me (2013)

Jesse Eisenberg, magic, Mark Ruffalo, meh, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, TBT, woody harrelson

We all have those people that irritate us for no real reason. You know what I mean, when literally everything they do just makes you irrationally angry. There’s a girl at work who is highly annoying me at the moment and I really don’t understand why. We have a lot in common so should get on. However, every time she opens her mouth I just feel my entire body scrunching up in annoyance. I mean, I guess it’s partly down the fact that I’m an awful person who hates pretty much all other people but I also put the blame partly on her. I mention this because Dave Franco is another of these people. I think it’s because he was in that awful final season of Scrubs but I just prepare for the worst whenever he’s in a film I’m watching. It’s stupid, I know, to hate someone because they played a really annoying character on a TV show I didn’t even really like many years ago. However, I’m just that petty and ridiculous. Which is why I was surprised to find, upon rewatching the first Now You See Me film, that I actually enjoyed Franco’s work. He was funny and got into the spirit of it. Maybe I’m growing as a person? Or maybe I was just realising how stupid this film really is?

Now You See Me always sounded like a great concept. Thieves who use their careers as magicians to carry out their crimes on a very public and very global scale.  Now that’s a concept that someone like me could get behind. Like Ocean’s Eleven meets Gob Bluth: who could ask for more? Still, Now You See Me just doesn’t quite live up to it’s massive potential. Now You See Me is the worst kind of magic trick where the performer is so concerned with surprising the audience that the actual process becomes less important than the reveal. Director, Louis Leterrier, is less worried about creating a clever film that tricks the audience into believing what he wants. He just points the camera in the opposite direction or changes history when he needs to.

Still, that’s not to say that getting there isn’t fun. The reason people are such fans of magic is because they want to believe that what they are seeing is real. That isn’t to say you won’t enjoy the film but you must be willing to let go of all reason and logic. This film works best if you are okay to play the fool that it needs you to be. If you’re willing to ignore the clumsy fumbles along the way in order to get to the finale. After all, on a basic level the film is entertaining. It has gathered a great cast together and they all do admirably with what is given to them. It can’t have been easy but they manage to keep it together. There is even some interesting chemistry between the group of magicians and the detective chasing them.

However, Leterrier attempts to pull off too much and throws things together in such a small running time. The result is a confusing and badly edited narrative that doesn’t make as much sense as it should. In order to get everything in that it wanted to certain pesky details have been ignored. You know, silly things like character development, common sense, and a strong narrative. Instead, this film is all about surprising you. It gets to the point that, by the final reveal, so many absurd things have taken place that anything could have been possible. This isn’t a finely crafted tale like Ocean’s Eleven it is something that has been cobbled together with enough distractions to keep you preoccupied.

There are things to like, of course. It might just be me but angry magician Jesse Eisenberg is hot. That pretty much made the film for me. Then there are certain sequences that are visually interesting and it’s fun watching the four magicians do their craft, even if it is in a very Hollywood fake manner. There are some great showdowns between Eisenberg and Mark Ruffalo’s detective and Morgan Freeman’s magic debunker is a joy because, well, Morgan Freeman. Plus, Woody Harrelson seems born to play a big-headed mentalist who likes to swindle people using his skills.

However, that doesn’t make up for the fact that, ultimately, this film doesn’t stick. Remember in The Prestige when Michael Caine told us about the three stages of magic? Well, Now You See Me is a trick missing the all important final stage. In the first stage, the pledge, Leterrier takes the simple yet astounding premise of criminal magicians and makes you believe that’s what you’re seeing. In the second, the turn, that plot gets lost in the middle of an unnecessary revenge plot where so many secrets are revealed that the previous hour or so is almost made redundant. What Now You See Me lacks is the all important final act, the prestige. Leterrier forgets to bring the damn thing back.

Of course, this being magic, you want to believe and, if you’re like me, you’ll let the ridiculous nature of the film wash over you. Instead, you’ll be happy to get swept away with the drama and energy on display. You will purposefully ignore what you need to and you’ll take someone else’s word on something that makes absolutely not sense. Somehow, Leterrier manages to convince you that this technically terrible film is actually better than it is. I’m think what I’m saying is, Now You See Me may just be the greatest magic trick of all time.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Now You See Me 2 (2016)

Daniel Radcliffe, films, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, review

I saw Now You See Me with a couple of friends and vividly remember one of them despairing about how much we enjoyed it. She said it was nonsense and the plot didn’t make sense. She wasn’t wrong, of course, but, as we tried to explain to her, that didn’t make it any less exciting. Yes, finishing the film made you realise everything pretty much happened for no reason but it was still fun. I can’t even say that I am a massive fan of magic as I’m far too cynical to appreciate it. I’m always looking for the hidden aspects and the slight of hand because that’s what adults do. However, films concerning magic are always incredibly exciting. The Prestige is utterly insane when you think about it too much but that doesn’t stop it being fucking amazing. So, whilst I won’t be shouting it from the hill tops, I was a fan of the first film. Still, I can’t say I was exactly thrilled by the idea of a sequel. Especially as it starred Daniel Radcliffe, the least talented actor of the Harry Potter films. At least Mark Ruffalo would be there and I’m sure there’s a lot of things I could get through with the help of Mark Ruffalo.

Remember the fun but otherwise forgettable 2013 magic film Now You See Me? Do you remember how it ended? Well you better because the sequel nobody wanted or expected is here. Despite Now You See Me ending on a very final and satisfactory note, the powers that be obviously thought they could squeeze it for more so we’re picking up where we left of in Now You See Me 2. For those who haven’t spent the last 3 years thinking about this film I’ll sum up. The magicians, known as The Four Horsemen, are in hiding and undercover FBI agent/magician Dylan (Mark Ruffalo) is pretending to hunt for them. Meanwhile, angry patsy Thaddeus (Morgan Freeman) is languishing in prison intent of making the Horsemen pay for setting him up for a pretty flimsy reason. He’s posting internet videos calling for vengeance and, when the Horsemen are called out of retirement, it looks as though he’ll get his chance.

The four magicians, minus the ginger Isla Fisher but with the addition of the more edgy Lizzy Caplan, are called on to reveal the greed of a businessman who possesses software that can steal data from its users. When the plot goes wrong and Dylan is outed as a double agent the group find themselves kidnapped by the supposed dead partner of the businessman, Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe). He forces the magicians to steal the software for him or he’ll kill them or something. It doesn’t really matter because, as we know by now, the plot really isn’t as simple as all that. Everyone is playing games and nobody really knows what’s going on.

It basically becomes the same kind of showdown we saw in the original between the corrupt and dangerous Mabry and our Robin Hood-esque magic group. However, this time there’s more talking and more exposition to get us to the very obvious ending. Plus, just when you think this film couldn’t get more ridiculous than its predecessor, in a weird subplot Dylan works on his continued Daddy issues when he goes to Thaddeus for help in tracking down his magic interns. To any normal person this seems like a fucking stupid idea but Dylan sees no problem with helping his arch-enemy escape from prison.

This film does succeed in providing you with everything you expect, though. There’s magic, brooding Mark Ruffalo, zany Woody Harrelson and annoyed Jesse Eisenberg. Although, in Now You See Me 2 there was far too much of the latter two and not enough magic in any sense of the word. Still, I guess these movies aren’t really about magic but are more of an Ocean’s Eleven meets The Prestige kind of caper. Magi-crime thriller? I dunno. Still, it is fun enough but, you can’t help feeling, second time around it just doesn’t have the same effect. Mostly because it was a completely unnecessary sequel. The story line is stretched super thin because there was just no place to go at the end of the first one. Whatever you may think of the quality, it was pretty self-contained.

No matter how many quirky new characters, secret identical twins or Chinese magic shops you throw into the mix, this sequel still feels like it fails to lie up to the, not so great, heights of its predecessor. Everything feels desperate and there are so many failed attempts to ramp up the thrills. Take Michael Caine’s dramatic reveal, which, thanks to his very obvious appearance in all the marketing, is nowhere near as thrilling as the filmmakers would have liked. The mood is much more bleak and Mark Ruffalo spends most of his time moping around. The rest of the cast seem content to treat the film as the insane story that it is but Ruffalo refuses to take a break. It often feels at odds with the rest of the proceedings.

The first film had no real expectations of itself and was a fun, flashy affair that didn’t care how absurd it was. And I liked that about it. This film is a tepid and unimaginative affair that calls on every stupid trick in the book to try and convince its audience that it’s relevant. Unfortunately, it’s not. I mean there are a couple of stand-out moments but nothing major. The only thing that really got me excited was the moment the group try and hide the stolen chip by slyly chucking a playing card back-and-forth in front of angry security guards. Even that feels half-arsed in the grand scheme of things though. You won’t necessarily hate this film but there is no denying it’s lost the magic of the original.

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

books, currently reading, films, George RR Martin, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, X-Men
Today is father’s day so I hope that you’re all treating your dad like a King. Me? I forced him to drive me to work at 6:45 am and left his present on the side for him to find when he got back. Who says daughterly love isn’t alive and well. Still, I guess I owe a lot to my father. He’s had a greater influence on my interests than I really appreciate. He’s a fan of J.R.R Tolkein and bought my my first copy of The Fellowship of the Ring when I was younger. He was the one who bought me a copy of The Philosopher’s Stone when it was released. His love of Arthur Conan Doyle pushed me into reading his novels as soon as I could. It was sitting with my dad and watching The Next Generation that really got me into Star Trek. No doubt there’s more that his tastes have influenced but it can’t be ignored that my father is responsible for some of the greatest loves that have followed me through my life. Without Toklein I wouldn’t have read George RR Martin. Without that first copy of Harry Potter I would have missed out on one of the most important series of books in my life. Without TNG I wouldn’t have grown up knowing what a badass Patrick Stewart is. So, despite my lack of celebration this morning, I am celebrating my father today. Who knows what kind of boring life I’d have had without his influence. 
Currently Reading
  • A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George RR Martin
I’m getting through this but still pretty slowly. I’d forgotten how dense George RR’s writing can be. I’m absolutely loving it but it just feels like such an immense task to get through each section. As someone who doesn’t want to finish reading for the night until I’ve reached a suitable place it sometimes doesn’t feel worth starting when I’m in bed. I hope I get into this soon. I’ve spent a lot of my day off reading and I’m slowly falling in love with Dunk and Egg’s bromance. I just need to pray for inspiration.

Recently Purchased
  • The Man with the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters by Fergus Fleming
Saw this one in a bookshop and knew I had to have it. I love the James Bond films and have tried, unsuccessfully, to get into the books a few times. However, I love reading people’s letters because I’m so fucking nosy. Seriously, though, I always regretted not writing my postgraduate dissertation about the letters of Romantic poets because it’s always so fascinating to read their personal letters. I tracked down a copy of Jean-Paul Satre’s letters to Simone de Beauvoir because of the film The Truth About Cats and Dogs and have loved it. It’s so great getting a look into their personal loves and the difference in their voices and styles is fantastic. I have to say that the best thing about the Sex and the City movie is the moment Carrie is reading the love letters of great men. I have a similar book and adore it. So, I think it’s pretty safe to say I’ll love this book.
  • The House of Ulloa (Pocket Penguins) by Emilia Pardo Bazán
Another edition to my slowly increasing Pocket Penguins collection and it’s a lovely yellow colour. Yellow is fast becoming my favourite colour so I was, probably, sways towards this one more on the cover than the stroy. However, it is also a Gothic novel and we all know how I feel about them. The story of a young priest entering a morally questionable world sounds ideal. It’s like The Monk but, hopefully, with less “beauteous orbs” 
  • The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane
I saw this book and thought the cover was so good I bought it without knowing anything about the story. However, it sounds pretty great even though it wouldn’t make a difference now. Ruth is widowed and lives alone until an unexpected arrival turns up at her door. Frida appears great at first but Ruth starts to hear a tiger prowling around her house at night. Who is this stranger and what does she want with Ruth? See? Doesn’t that sound fucking awesome? Woman/tiger mystery. Looking forward to this. 

Recently Watched
  • X-Men: Apocalypse
I finally got round to seeing this after bloody ages. After spending months feeling absolutely shit about it, I was pleasantly surprised. Still, it wasn’t exactly good. Check out my review from last week. 
  • X-Men: The Last Stand
In order to really get my TBT review correct this week I went above and beyond and rewatched this fucking film. Wanna hear my thoughts? Check out my Thursday post
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past (Rogue cut)
After watching Apocalypse this week I went on a bit of an X-Men marathon and finally watched the extended edition of Days of Future Past. Considering how much I loved this film and loved the sound of the Rogue scenes I was excited. Turns out, the extra 20 minutes or so didn’t really add a great deal. I can’t say Rogue made much of a difference and, aside from the super hot Beast/Mystique scene, there wasn’t much I wished had been in the final cinematic release. Still, it’s a fucking great film regardless. 
  • Now You See Me 2
I quite liked the first film despite how ridiculous it was. So I was sort of looking forward to the sequel. Did I like it? Find out on Tuesday.

  • Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
I love The Lonely Island and they have a permanent place on my Day to Day Spotify playlist. So I was loving the idea of this film. I’m hoping to do a full review in the coming weeks so keep your eyes peeled. 

Tuesday’s Reviews – Sneaky Experience The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

films, Morgan Freeman, prison, Sneaky Experience, Stephen King

I’ve wanted to try Sneaky Experience for a really long time but have never had the opportunity until recently. For those not in the know, Sneaky Experience create pop-up cinema screenings to audiences in weird locations. They make the screening an event and dress the location to link to the film. It’s always sounded amazing but I’ve never managed to get tickets. There have been Harry Potter screenings at Kirkstall Abbey and Christmas screenings of Elf that have eluded me. However, I finally managed to find a screening I wanted to attend and could get tickets for. The fact that I was going with a co-worker who is definitely more attached to me than I am to him was a price I was just going to have to pay. On Saturday night, straight after an awful day at work, I headed to Leeds town hall to watch The Shawshank Redemption.

We started off pre-experience having to fill out a Prisoner Information form. It included things like name, photo (or a hastily and badly drawn picture), crime and my alibi. I spent much longer than I needed to thinking up a good alibi because, ultimately, nothing much happened with this piece of paper. Although, I was quite proud so I’m going to discuss it here. As I was being sent down for the crime Andy Dufresne was incarcerated for, I decided to use the plot of Bull Durham as my alibi. I couldn’t have committed the crime because I wasn’t Shawshank Tim Robbins; I was Bull Durham Tim Robbins.

Following queueing in the cold for a while, we were ushered into a room where a couple of actors dressed as inmates and prison guards interacted with as many people as possible. Unfortunately for them there were too many people to get around and it got boring quickly. Still, the actors got very into their parts and were entertaining to watch. Although, I was one of the more uncomfortable ones and tried everything I could to limit my time with them. Then we were forced to have our photo taken in a manner reminiscent of a police mugshot, which we were told we could purchase at the end. Spoiler alert: I didn’t.
Then the experience really started. In pretty large groups we were ushered into a courtroom and got to live through a brief rendition of Andy Dufresne’s trial. It was fun but a bit ‘blink and you’ll miss it’. Before any of us knew what was happening we were then forced down into the old cells in the town hall’s basement and locked-up for the night. Okay, were weren’t strictly locked in but we were in the dark in an old cell for at least 30 seconds. It was fun.
We were then sent up some stairs and outside onto the street. Here, a man dressed as a prison officer proceeded to shout at us as some very concerned pedestrians and restaurant patrons looked on. We were marched back inside and taken to a room… where we waited. The unlucky ones at the back waited for a long time but at least there was Jenga to keep them entertained. Fortunately, I got through quite quickly and, less than an hour after I was sent to prison, was facing my parole hearing. I had to answer one question, which I obviously did quite badly as I was rejected. Well, at least that confirms my suspicion that Morgan Freeman and I are quite alike.
Then, we had to wait in the screening room whilst the rest of the people made it through the experience. We weren’t one of the first but we still must have sat for about half an hour. It sure made me glad we’d turned up when we did. As the final groups made their way around, more of the actors from the proceeding sections turned up to cause havoc with the waiting patrons. The guards terrorised the people willing to get involved, the prisoners threatened the newcomers and Andy Dufresne himself handed out library books (actually he was incredibly attractive so I wouldn’t have minded some interaction there). Despite nothing much happening here there were some fun moments as the actors involved really got to go crazy with their characters. I was one of many who were closely followed back to their seat by an angry guard.

Whilst I ultimately enjoyed the whole experience I have to admit there was a lot more waiting around than I’d expected. Obviously there was a fuck load of people to get through the whole thing but there wasn’t a great deal to it. There were only about 4 stops on the whole tour and the interaction in each section was limited. It was fun, yes, but it could have been more substantial. I mean, the prisoner information form suggested we would have our fingerprints taken at some point but that never occurred. The price is pretty hefty and, I can see why. I was just left feeling that my money could have been put towards something greater. I didn’t need the shitty photobooth and felt that the money could have been used better.

I once saw a production of The Merchant of Venice in Lancaster castle where the action moved around the rooms using what the building had on offer. For example, the courtroom scene was set in the old courtroom. It was one of the best Shakespeare productions I’ve ever seen because you were fully immersed in the plot. I sort of expected Sneaky Experience to feel a bit more like that but it was just a bit of a lame duck in comparison. I mean there were scenes lifted straight from the film and acted out in real life but it just felt like something was missing. Something I realise isn’t fair as you’re freer with a play than a film. Still, part of me thinks Sneaky Experience would benefit from a smaller scale and a more personal experience.

Although, if the right film comes along I’ll definitely be up for another Sneaky Experience. It is something I won’t forget and gave me the chance to see a wonderful film. I’ve never seen Shawshank on a big screen and, as it’s still one of the best films ever made, I was able to experience it in a way I never had. It’s a beautiful film and well acted. The film is powerful, emotional and, ultimately, uplifting. Morgan Freeman is just outstanding and his chemistry with Robbins is great. My only possible criticism would be that it’s a tad long but that probably has more to do with how long I’d been sitting and waiting for it to start.

TBT – Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

alan rickman, films, in memoriam, Morgan Freeman, review, swords, TBT, unintentionally funny

So it’s been four throwback Thursday’s since Alan Rickman died and I’m still remembering him through his classic films. I was only planning to do this for a month to properly mourn his passing but I’m tempted to continue indefinitely until I get all the good ones. There are still a few to chose from and I’d be keen to rewatch them. This weeks film is one I haven’t seen in a long time and was both a fantastic and awful thing to do to myself. Watching the film was fucking hilarious because it has not aged well. The major consequence was having the fucking abysmal Bryan Adams song ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’ in my head all day. I’ve never wanted to bash my head with a frying pan more than I have today.

The legend of Robin Hood is one that has understandably struck a chord with people’s imagination. A brave archer who steals from the rich and gives to the poor and still manages to save the damsel in distress: he’s exactly the kind of guy young kids grow up wanting to learn about. It’s no wonder, then, that he has a long history with films. He is surrounded by excitement, romance and morality. Still, there had been better versions of his tale before and there have been better since. It’s certainly weird watching Kevin Reynolds 90s modernised version in the wake of the BBCs recent television series starring Jonas Armstrong.

It’s not possibly to say that Reynolds’ film stands the test of time and looks more outdated now than some of the earliest films about the eponymous hero probably do. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves takes the story that we are all so familiar, a band of outlaws taking money and distributing it to the poor, and tries to sex it up. Robin (Kevin Costner) is joined by Azeem (Morgan Freeman), a Moor Robin helped escape from prison and who has vowed to save Robin’s life in return. The Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) becomes more than just greedy and has turned to the dark arts to attempt to take the throne from the departed King Richard. Newly returned from the Crusades, Robin finds his father dead and vows revenge on the Sheriff and those who helped him… whilst still trying to woo the lovely Maid Marion (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). 

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is one of my ultimate guilty pleasure movies. There’s so much to dislike about it but it’s so fucking awful that it’s something you can’t stop watching. I mean the performances and the script are pretty horrendous and often verge into unintentionally funny. The scenarios are just bizarre at times and the references to other movies is just weird. The fight scenes are so confusing and badly directed that its difficult to see what’s going on. The costume design is just misjudged and the sets are inconsistent. It can also boast one of the most annoying songs in film history, probably tying with Armageddon for first place. It’s a terrible song and you can see why Reynolds kept it out of the film as much as possible.

It’s also an incredibly dark film: both literally and figuratively. Literally, because most of the action takes place in a fucking forest or a castle lit only by candles. Figuratively, because it’s really ducking gruesome for a family film. There’s so much death, torture, sex and devil worship on display and that’s before you get to the final act which is just a lengthy scene of attempted rape intercut with classic one-liners from the Sheriff of Nottingham. The film has a really weird tone which doesn’t work at all with the hero as we know him. Overall, is a totally misjudged and badly made film but I fucking love it.

When it comes to our hero, Kevin Costner is particularly dull and decides to go against the norm and play him as an introspective and quiet hero rather than the dashing and sassy man in tights he usually is. He even forgoes the wacky hat and joyful demeanour for a brooding look. Costner really never quite gets the tone of Robin right and, because of Costner’s insistence that we get some backstory to Robin’s life, he is a man wounded by his experience fighting in the Crusades. I much preferred the fox in Disney’s version. At least he always tackled his crazy schemes with a fucking smile on his face.

Then there’s the underwhelming love story that really only takes place because it has to. Maid Marion, on the whole, isn’t that abysmal and has some real moments of brilliance. She isn’t the shy and retiring type when we first meet her and can actually hold her own in a fight. That is until she, very quickly, falls in love with Robin and becomes the helpless damsel who needs to be rescued. Still, Mastrantonio comes across much better than fellow American Christian Slater who plays outlaw Will Scarlett. All three actors struggle with attempting a British accent but Slater fails to convince as an Englishman on so many levels I’m kind of embarrassed for him. Plus, he has one of the least secretive secret histories of any movie character to date.

So, why, I hear you cry, do I love this film so much? For the same reason anyone does. Alan Rickman. Rickman is in a completely different film to anyone else. Rickman actually has fun with his role. He’s anything but subtle but that’s what we need. He delivers every line perfectly and it’s always dripping with venom. This is Rickman at his most venomous but, it’s important to note, he’s also incredibly funny with it. To say he’s the best thing about this film isn’t saying much but he’s no doubt the reason people come back to this film so often. It’s Rickman’s film and he fucking smashes it. 

TBT – Batman Begins (2005)

anniversary, Batman, Christian Bale, Christopher Nolan, comic book, DC, film, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, review
This week marks the 10thanniversary of the film that launched one of the most popular film franchises of all time. 2005 was the first time since 1989 that it was OK to be a film fan who also loves Batman. Batman Beginsset the trend that has plagued Hollywood ever since: the dark comic book reboot. Batman had already been the star of 4 films since in the 16 years prior to the release of Christopher Nolan came along and each subsequent movie had made the supposed dark knight more of a laughing stock. The hero, first created by Bob Kane in 1939, was patiently waiting for the chance to show what he could really do and Nolan and co-writer David S Goyer knew the only way to go was to be super-serious . Nolan’s film was the dark comic book movie that Tim Burton wished he could have made in 1989 and it was a refreshing change. Of course, now it’s just par for the course but Batman Begins was a revelation in 2005. It was fucking exciting.

Batman Beginsstarts a afresh with Batman’s origin and assumes that its audience knows fuck all about the motivation behind Bruce Wayne’s double life. Drawing a lot of inspiration from classic storyline Batman: Year One, Nolan introduces us to the tragedy that shattered Bruce’s childhood and the path he took to give it a positive conclusion. Batman Beginsalmost tries to remove the comic book traces from one of the most popular superheroes as Nolan makes his Gotham City a very realistic pit of poverty, crime and greed. Of course, the Batman myth is never going to be a plausible one but Nolan came the closest to make it happen. His re-imagining of the journey from orphaned young boy to night-time vigilante has such depth that it almost felt like the obvious reaction to your parents murder was dressing up in a cape.
Nolan’s greatest success with the first film in his Dark Knight trilogy was how subtle he was. Batman Beginsforgoes the superhero staple of relying too heavily on action sequences. Nolan places more of a focus on story and character. The film is as much of a success in terms of drama as it does in sheer entertainment. The final act contains the obligatory good vs bad showdown but there is a distinct lack of high-tech action on display. The action sequences use CGI sparingly yet still offer enough visual spectacles to keep explosion nerds more than happy. It has all of the elements you need for a comic book movie but without the blinding sheen that Joel Schumacher dripped over his efforts. It’s understated, it’s held back, and it’s bloody good.
The film features the type of jumpy narrative that Nolan had used so effectively in his previous film Mementoas we piece together Bruce’s past. We first meet the grown Wayne (Christian Bale) after he was arrested trying to steal a crate of his company’s goods. After being visited by the mysterious Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), Bruce treks to the mountain-top retreat of the League of Shadows, an organisation that promises to help him on his path for vengeance. Although, this assistance comes at too large a price, as the League’s leader, Ra’s al Ghul, wants Bruce to help him destroy the city his parents helped build.
Returning alone, Bruce sets out on a more righteous path by defending the people of Gotham from mob boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) and his dangerous ally Dr Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy). Crane’s alter ego, the Scarecrow, is planning to tear Gotham apart using his own brand of hallucinogenic drug. Working alongside police sergeant James Gordan (Gary Oldman) and scientist Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Bruce must stop Crane whilst still keeping his identity a secret.
When it comes down to it, Batman Beginsis the only film of the trilogy in which Batman himself really shines. Christian Bale, growly voice aside, did a great job at getting to the real heart of the character. Considering the film is all about Batman’s origin, the actual murder of Bruce’s parents is fairly perfunctory. It has been dealt with so many times that Nolan gets it out of the way as efficiently as possible. Instead he focuses on the emotional and psychological resonance of that one moment. We see the young Bruce being comforted by a young Jim Gordan and the college-aged Bruce determined to make his parent’s killer pay. This is richer and deeper depiction of Bruce Wayne than we have been treated to yet.
My number one main quibble with Batman Beginsis the romance that Nolan clumsily inserts into the narrative. I’m not saying that romance and Batman shouldn’t go hand-in-hand but I don’t think it works here. That’s partly thanks to the complete lack of chemistry between Bale and Katie Holmes, who plays his childhood friend Rachel Dawes. On the whole though, the romance just feels like a misstep in a story that is about one man’s struggle to work out who he is. It seems unnecessary and drags the already bloated plot out even further. It is a long film, after all, and does take some time to get going. Nolan never really loses his audience but there is a lot that could have been cut to streamline the process. The lack of Katie Holmes could have done a great deal in his favour.
Although, the rest of the cast do a pretty sterling job and, with supporting cast of the likes of Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, Nolan’s work is treated with respect and care. None of them necessarily get a great deal to do but each bring what emotional depth to the narrative as possible. The performances, though not major, are reliable and memorable enough that you want to see more from them in the future. Of course, it is the bad guys that usually stick in your mind in these sorts of films and Batman Begins is no different. Cillian Murphy is both terrifying and comical in his portrayal of the freak Scarecrow. He’s still one of my favourite parts of the trilogy and I’m still upset he didn’t get bigger roles in the sequels.

Batman Beginsis not the best example of a comic book film that you will ever see. Nor is it, in the minds of most people, the greatest in its own trilogy. However, it was undoubtedly an important film at the time and, despite a few missteps here and there, it was the reboot that the Dark Knight desperately needed in Hollywood. It made Christian Bale the true A lister than he is to this day and it showed the world that the director of Mementowas truly a great director. Just think where we would be without it.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Anne Hathaway, Batman, Christian Bale, Christopher Nolan, comic book, DC, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, review, Tom Hardy
The final instalment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy had a huge benchmark to reach as it was, without a doubt, the most anticipated film of this year. Particularly after the amazing success of 2008’s The Dark Knight which was a hit with both audiences and critics alike. The hype surrounding Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker has given The Dark Knight a better reputation than it really deserves. Ledger’s Joker aside, the film lacks a great deal of what made the first film so fucking awesome. The Harvey Dent/Two-Face storyline is as much of a fucking joke as the Spider-Man/Venom storyline in Toby Maguire 3. Then you have the annoying Rachel/Harvey/Bruce love triangle thing and a fucking stupid ending. Why was necessary for Harvey to be the good guy? Why not allow Gordon (a strong symbol of honesty, lawfulness and justice… also hotness) to step forward as Gotham’s White Knight? Yes, there were stand-out pieces (the sequence on the two boats is unforgettable) and great visual effects but I was certainly not one of the people who went into the third film predisposed to see only the Heath Ledger shaped hole.

In the four years between Ledger’s shock death in 2008 and the release of The Dark Knight Rises the rumour mill went into overdrive about who would be Batman’s next foil. (In a potential villain Fuck, Marry Kill, I’d definitely have fucked Neil Patrick Harris as the Riddler and killed Angelina Jolie’s catwoman). Nolan’s decision to make the material more realistic is both a blessing and a curse. It had taken the series in a wonderful new direction but had also limited the number of existing supporting characters that would fit the bill. Seriously, what the fuck could he have done to rewrite the likes of Man-Bat or Clayface into his gritty, gangster underworld? Ultimately though, there was only ever going to be one choice: Bane.
It’s fair to say that the Joker has always been the quintessential Batman nemesis. He is the Other to Batman’s crime fighting vigilante: a force for chaos acting against Bruce Wayne’s desire for order. On the other hand, Bane is the all important “big guy” when it comes to villains: the man who broke the Bat. A friend of mine came out of his first viewing of The Dark Knight Rises and insisted that Bane could never have been as terrifying as The Joker was. I could understand where he was coming from, Ledger and Nolan created a highly intelligent psychopath who made up for his lack of strength with his deadly mind games… and a pencil.
I also politely disagree. Bane is a fucking mountain. I sat throughout TDKR absolutely sure that Bane would definitely be able to punch through my skull without any trouble. He feeds off pain and gives the people of Gotham just enough rope to hang themselves with. He’s clever and has the strength to back it up. Tom Hardy did a great job with the character and certainly stands up next to the much-loved Joker. Well perhaps if we could hear him a little better.
Yes, we now find ourselves back in the all too familiar position that we found ourselves in with Michael Fassbender’s Magneto a year ago. Much has been made of the issues surrounding the recording of Hardy’s dialogue and there are multiple schools of thought. I neither know nor give much of a shit about what happened. All I can say for sure is that in the second and third viewings it gets a whole lot easier to figure out what the masked terror is shouting about. Although, a conversation between the mumbling Bane and the raspy Batman certainly makes for an interesting exchange.
The aspect of The Dark Knightthat was so compelling were the moments that the Joker and Batman got the chance to interact and play off each other. Unfortunately, Hardy and Bale share very little screen time in TDKR and that basically consists of the two beating the shit out of each other. The action sequences are, surprisingly, not the stand out sequences of the film. This is not to say that they are bad but I find myself preferring the more intimate moments where the main cast interact one-on-one.
Christian Bale and the usual suspects are all as good as they have been in previous instalments and they are joined by the equally wonderful Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle and Joseph Gordon Levitt as a young police officer, John Blake. It is the moments in which we see Gordon wrestle with his conscience and Alfred terrified for the young boy he watched grow up that provide the best moments. Thankfully, the cast are all more than up for the task at hand.
Although, I freely admit I was initially horrified when it was announced that Hathaway had been cast as Catwoman, Brokeback Mountain aside, I had seen very little evidence that she was worth her high reputation and the emotional scars from her attempt to sound like she was from Yorkshire in One Day still ran deep. Even I have to admit, she was a fucking badass in the end. Her eventual realisation that the coming storm may not be the blessing she first thought is played with an amazing subtlety. She also handled the action sequences remarkably well, which is more than I can say about the lovely Marion Cotillard who joined the cast as Miranda Tate.

The Dark Knight Rises is not a perfect film, the plot is not necessarily as strong as one might have expected, there are several annoying plot-holes and Bane’s plan does not feel quite as important as it should do. Then again this is a film, as the title suggests, about Batman’s struggle to get back to his position as protector. The journey Bruce must undertake from crippled, shut-away to the Dark Knight is captivating and there are plenty of old faces along the way to please any fan of the series. As an end to the trilogy, it does everything that it needed to do and was, as we all expected, highly entertaining. I, as I’m sure most viewers did, went out of the cinema feeling more than happy with the final chapter of this raspy-voiced Batman’s story.