Category Archives: christian bale

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises ~ In recent weeks I have developed quite an internet reputation as the guy who hated The Dark Knight. Exhibit A can be found here. That said, I actually liked Batman Begins, the first movie in the Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy, quite a bit. Lucky for me, The Dark Knight Rises has more in common with the first movie than the second.

The Dark Knight Rises picks up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight. The unholy pact between Batman and Jim Gordon at the end of that movie, creating the deceit that Batman killed not only Two-Face’s victims but also Harvey Dent himself. This results in the Dent Act securing a crime-free Gotham City for nearly a decade, during which Batman has vanished.

Bruce Wayne has been a recluse, Howard Hughes style, but is brought out of exile by a slick cat burglar named Selina Kyle. Rookie cop John Blake figures out Wayne’s secret and wants to know what happened. Meanwhile the terrorist Bane plots the destruction of Gotham City. There’s your set up. I figure I could have saved myself the trouble of seeing the second movie and gone from one to three pretty easily.

The cast is excellent this time out. Head and shoulders above the rest are Gary Oldman and Michael Caine who get far too little screen time. Oldman’s subtle intensity as Gordon and Caine’s guiding worry as Alfred are the gold standard of the film. Similarly, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake is the star of this flick, he shines.

Tom Hardy is a suitably menacing Bane in both appearance and intelligence. Anne Hathaway, while never called Catwoman by name, is magic every second she’s on screen. I couldn’t get enough of her. Even Christian Bale puts in his best Bruce Wayne appearance so far in the series.

The story of The Dark Knight Rises borrows liberally from the comics, specifically Knightfall, The Dark Knight Returns and No Man’s Land – and that’s all right. It works. It’s a very complex story of epic proportions, unexpected plot twists and multiple endings and it works.

Oh, to be sure, there are problems here, but nothing like there were in The Dark Knight. I hated the mumble twins – Batman and Bane. Batman still growls, but it’s nowhere near as bad or ridiculous as it was in the last flick. Bane has a breathing mask that garbled his voice as well, but at least there seemed to be some improvement over how it sounded in early previews.

The third quarter of the film drags for me, and probably for everyone else who read Knightfall, but I did like the obvious and literal reference to the Lazarus Pit. I did love the endings, and the Bat was cool despite it bending director Nolan’s grounded-in-reality rule.

All in all, despite the tragedy in Colorado, The Dark Knight Rises is a great film, better than Batman Begins, and it more than makes up for The Dark Knight. See this film, don’t let anything or anyone keep you from going to the theaters.

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More Coming Soon…

The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Anne Hathaway, opens Summer 2012.

The remake/re-imagining of Conan the Barbarian opens in August, in 3D.

And if you just can’t get enough Dark Knight, Batman: Year One is released on DVD and Blu-Ray this September.

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Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation ~ Despite frequent and extreme action sequences I really found myself quite bored by this sequel/prequel/reimagining of the Terminator films. I like McG a lot but he’s no James Cameron and the flick suffers much by its father’s absence. I also much disliked the use of the Technicolor OZ process which creates that gray/silver drab world on film. I get it, things are depressing in the future, but show me in other ways than adjusting the camera lenses.

It’s hard to watch this film without remembering the incidents which marred its making, most notably Christian Bale losing his mind and verbally abusing a cinematographer. I personally was bothered by Bale in that he has a perfectly good, grim, and humorless voice here, which he could have used for Batman instead of that unintelligible growl in The Dark Knight. I wish we could have had more of Common, and lots more of Moon Bloodgood – she is always excellent in everything she does.

There are a few bits that are bonuses for fans of the previous films and even the TV series, but that’s about all those familiar with the mythos get. This is a new vision, only set barely in the trappings of what went before. There are no real surprises. If this was the first Terminator film, it would have no sequels. Worth viewing only as a curiosity.

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Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle ~ This Hiyao Miyazaki classic is based on an award-winning novel by a British author, Diana Wynne James. Set in a very imaginative 1920s-ish steampunk world where magic exists, this surreal tale is well-suited to Miyazaki’s filmmaking and storytelling talents.

Young Sophie is cursed and turned into an old woman, voiced by the late and legendary Jean Simmons, and starts cleaning a wizard’s giant walking castle – the one referenced in the title. Howl, appropriately played by Christian Bale, is a spoiled brat of a wizard, and a coward to boot, seemingly a perfect role for Bale based on his on-set tantrums of recent years. The voice cast is rounded out by Billy Crystal as a enslaved fire demon, who for the first time in quite some time is not grating on my nerves. The demon, Calcifer, is actually a lot of fun.

The highlight of the film is the subtle way that Sophie ages and de-ages, depending on her emotions and situations, throughout. It’s a wonderful touch. I can’t recommend this enough as I love Miyazaki, but by the same token, it is Miyazaki, and a hard and bizarre pill to swallow at times. The man is a genius, and the animation is visually brilliant, so even just as eye candy, this is so worth seeing.

For another view on this flick, check out the Comic Widows review by Maxine Nelson here.

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The Long Dark Knight

The Dark Knight ~ I wanted to like this, I really did. Hell, I wanted to love it. And based on the record-breaking box office, and the renewed interest in comics as fodder for Hollywood, I really wish I did… But it was not to be. This could be one of the biggest disappointments of the summer, if not the year.

I don’t get it. How could this be that nearly two decades after Tim Burton’s Batman when comics readers breathed a collective sigh of relief when we finally got what many of us perceived as the real Batman – a dark creature of the night – how could it be that now … my reaction is “it’s too dark,” how could this be?

The problem is, that’s the least of the problems I have with The Dark Knight. There are sequences, dialogue and characterizations that are dead on, and in some cases, perfect. But those do not make a whole movie.

Perhaps part of the blame goes to director Christopher Nolan for hiring his brother to help with the screenplay. David Goyer runs hot and cold for me. The first Blade is perfect yet his Dark City does nothing but give me migraines just thinking about it. Why not hire someone who has his feet firmly within both camps, film and comics, to help write the thing? Alan Brennert must be in the loop somewhere as he wrote one of the episodes in “Gotham Knight,” the anime that bridges Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and it should be noted he’s one of the better comics and TV writers around. His “Twilight Zone” work rivals Rod Serling’s and his Earth-Two stories are second only to Roy Thomas, if not better. He understands comics, and the characters.

Another thing that bothers me is the Oscar for the late Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. Yeah, he’s good, but was he that good? Hard to say. He certainly nailed the Joker, personality-wise at least, if not the visuals, and Ledger’s Joker definitely is frightening. Anyone else get the shivers every time he clicked his tongue? Yes, Ledger was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. He shines whenever he’s on screen, even in nurse drag. But personally though I think Aaron Eckhart and especially Gary Oldman were just as good. If the late Heath Ledger gets an Oscar, then at least Oldman should have gotten at least a nod as well.

Christian Bale’s Batman growl has got to go. In the previous movie it was annoying, here it’s just downright infuriating. How about just a tonal change of voice like Christopher Reeve used to do with Clark Kent and Superman? That’s all that’s needed, really.

Really, what more do I need to say? The guttural noises coming from Bale lessen the character. The Batman character comes as much from Doc Savage as he does from the Shadow. Where is the Savage intellect? In this version of the dark knight it seems that either Lucius or Alfred do all the thinking for him.

Why do the movies hate Two-Face so much? He is easily one of the Batman’s deadliest foes, not just because of his insanity, or his loyalty to that coin, but because he was Bruce Wayne’s friend. He is not just the Riddler’s sidekick or the Joker’s freakish revenge – and he never was – why reduce such a opportunity-filled nemesis by linking him to others?

And Two-Face’s make-up/appearance… wow, it’s horrific, and pretty close to the comics for once, in theory. I think the idiots that brought their infant children to see this flick paid for their mistake with numerous nights of their children screaming awake from nightmares. Ratings are there for a reason, idiots. Just because it’s based on a ‘funny book,’ doesn’t mean it’s for kids.

I suppose that somewhere in this dreck written by Goyer and the director’s brother there might have been a good movie somewhere, but in my opinion it doesn’t make it to the screen. There are, despite my contempt for this film, parts I liked. The Joker’s interactions with the underworld elements of Gotham City are priceless and the entire Hong Kong sequence is amazing, but that’s only a small percentage of a very long movie. Too long.

I suppose I can hope that the next film in the series will be better, but that tact didn’t work back in the 1990s when Joel Schumacher took over the franchise. Perhaps Batman will be the opposite of the Star Trek film series and the odd-numbered ones will be the good ones. I hope so. I really don’t want to hate going to see Batman movies again…

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The Original 3:10 to Yuma

I haven’t seen the new remake of 3:10 to Yuma with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe yet, even though folks I trust have told me it’s a very good flick.

I think part of the reason I haven’t yet seen it is that I can’t get it into my head why it had to be remade. And even more irritating is that when I expressed this question on my LiveJournal, I was hit by a comment that people don’t think older films are worth watching. I’m still dumbstruck by this notion. Wow.

Either way, I was delighted to catch the original Glenn Ford and Van Heflin version of 3:10 to Yuma on OnDemand last night. It’s been some time since I last seen and it was still as great as I remember. In glorious black and white. Ahem.

Glenn Ford plays bad guy Ben Wade as an almost likable villain, but not in a let’s-root-for-the-guy way but more in a charismatic way. But still, this is 1957 and the line between the white hats and the black hats is a thick and decisive one. just as we know how human he is, we also know how evil he is. It’s a dance I wish more modern movies would take. After all, who were the stars of the first four Batman movies of the last decades? Batman or the baddies? There should be a line, dammit.

Van Heflin walks the other side as farmer Dan Evans, a reluctant farmer hero forced into the position to oppose Ben Wade. Wade is captured and a waiting game ensues as a race between his men coming to save him and an oncoming train to prison tick the clock away. Dan must come to terms with what should be done and what he wants to do as Wade tempts him with much-needed money to let him go.

The Elmore Leonard story is more psychological drama than straight western even though all the necessary elements are there. As I said I see little reason for this to be remade as it’s an almost perfect film as it stands. Did it need to be in color? Did there need to be more bloodshed? I don’t get it, but suppose will find out when I see the new one.

In the meantime, if you get a chance to see this one, please do. Great story, and probably some of the better performances by Ford and Heflin – a winner all around in my book. See it.