Friday, 25 July 2008

The Dark Knight

“Let’s put a smile on that face....”

Thank you Chris Nolan, Jonathon Nolan, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gwylyhall and everyone else involved, for creating the greatest “super-hero” films ever told.

Referring to The Dark Knight like that sounds a bit wrong, to say it’s the best Batman film would be an injustice, to say it’s the best comic-book film would be an injustice, to be quite honest this is just one of the best films ever committed to celluloid. Period.

This film is incredible, it contains so many strong story-lines that interweave and all pay-off, so many well developed characters and an abundance of intense scenes that keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.

Due to this the film is structured almost like a 2 and a half hour trailer, but this is not a criticism. There is so much jammed into the film and it moves at a very brisk pace, that this is the only conceivable way it could work. The musical score is constantly flowing with the film and pulls you in all the way to the end. Unlike Spider-man 3 with similar amounts of storyline and which ended up being a schizophrenic mess, The Dark Knight holds everything together and is consistently strong. Not an ounce of dialogue is wasted, everything said either advances the plot or a characters motivations.

Whereas Batman Begins was very much centred on Bruce Wayne this is more of an ensemble piece, with Bruce Wayne, Commissioner Gordon, the Joker and Harvey Dent all pretty much sharing the screen time. Of which Harvey’s story creates the emotional arch and back-bone of the film.

WARNING - EXTREME SPOILERS AHEAD

Heath Ledger is insanely good in this film, he inhabits the Joker to such a point that you never once see Heath Ledger. You believe the Joker exists as his own person, his mannerism, his voice, his motives create one of the best screen villains ever seen. Partly due to the script and partly due to Heath’s interpretation, every second he is on screen, you listen, you take note, you don’t want to miss a second of his performance. It’s magnificent and very bitter-sweet, to realise we will never see Heath act again is very depressing, but this is a triumphant last outing. Rest in Peace.

As good as Ledger’s performance is, the rest of the cast all deliver equally strong, (it’s just the Joker obviously as the screen grabbing antics) especially Aaron Eckhart, he plays Harvey Dent perfectly with charisma and charm and then by the end his turn to Two-Face is manic, heart-breaking and genuine. If your fiancĂ© had just been killed and you’d be left burned and permanently scarred you’d probably do the same.

Christian Bale is excellent as the three sides of Bruce Wayne, his public persona, the behind closed doors “real” Bruce and of course Batman.

The rest of the cast all do brilliantly, there just isn’t enough time to write about everyone.

The film is intense from start to finish, with several key sequences where a few crossing story lines all climax to equal several “Oh shit, I can’t believe that just happened” moments. The initial attack on Commissioner, the judge and Harvey, then the Mayor assassination attempt, the race to save Rachael or Harvey and Joker escape, the 60 minutes dead or blow up hospital sequences. All bring heart-pumping suspense to the film.

Then you’ve also got an incredible car chase which culminates with a semi-truck doing a full flip over itself, the opening Bank Heist, the Joker’s pencil magic trick, Joker’s escape from Gotham Police Station, Two-Face’s revenge, Batman dropping Sal Maroni to ankle crunching landing, the Hong Kong sky scrapper, and many more.

Then there is the Interrogation scene which is incredible, from the intro with the Joker in the dark, to the reveal of Batman and their ultimate encounter, 5 minutes of absolute perfection.

Two-Face is excellent too, he looks terrible (in a good way), burnt skin, no eye lids and a hole in his cheek so you can see the insides of his mouth, a marvel of CGI and prosthetics. His revenge is justified and believable and he’s used well. Having Harvey’s story build the foundation for the film, and it makes sense they killed him, like a tragic Shakespearean play.

The only two slight issues I had was when the Joker pretends to be dead, one shot gives an unsettling reminder of Heath Ledgers demise.

The second being the Ferry game at the end, whilst a good idea it doesn’t quite pack the same emotional impact as the rest of film as it involves random citizens we’re not invested in.

Those things aside everything else is brilliant, the musical score is exceptional, pulsing throughout the film and giving each character their own themes, the Joker’s is particularly unnerving.

The fight editing as also been tidied up so now you can see exactly what’s going on.

Everything feels real, not like your average super hero film. Batman is just a man in a costume, Joker is a psychopath that wears make-up and Two-Face is really just a vengeful burn victim.

It’s so good, I don’t really want another one. It’s Part One and Two of a huge film. They couldn’t compete with another. No Joker, no back bone from Harvey, no central love interest to kill off, no comparison!

Though it does also feel like a middle, as it follows directly on from the Begins end sequence and could lead to a introduction of a third with Batman being hated by Gotham until a threat exists requiring Batman to rise again allowing for the title of “The Dark Knight Returns.” But I have no idea what sort of idea could possibly compete or top this one. You could maybe add the Riddler, the Penguin or Catwoman. But to keep it realistic as they have with the previous villains would be very hard. The Riddler could potentially be the easiest to make “real” but could also end up being very familiar to the Joker in this film, setting up games to play with Batman.

If they made a third it would have to centre on Bruce again, which would be a nice way to end the trilogy and make symmetrical with the first Bruce-centric adventure.

Enough talking about “unneeded but inevitable sequels” get out and see this film, it is incredible and is by far the best film of the year so far, and I very much doubt anything could equal or better it.

It is so good it is already in my top five films of all time.

11/10

Read Full Review

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Wall-E

They've done it again.

As with all Pixar films, the feature is preceded by a short.

Presto

Pitch-perfect.

I think this Pixar short has to be one of the best they have ever done. From concept to execution it is spectacular.

The simple story involving a magician, his rabbit and his magic hat set up one of the funniest five minutes ever delivered from Pixar. The amount of creativity and genius on screen is unparalleled, I was constantly laughing or thinking how clever it all was.

The pace builds from beginning to end and is an instant classic.

With such an incredible short, the main feature had a lot to live up to...

10/10


Wall-E

Fortunately the main presentation is itself also incredible.

It should be worth mentioning though, that Wall-E is a completely different type of movie than what today’s movie-goers are use to. Firstly there is little to no dialogue used for the first half of the film, and the central two characters don’t speak at all. The comedy and entertainment is therefore created from much more subtle and physical humour, as opposed to witty one-liners, etc.

Despite the advertising campaign centring on Wall-E and his overall cuteness, that makes the film seem like it would be very child focused I’d say this is actually the darkest and most adult Pixar film, with the bleak vision of the future, consumerism, loneliness and its overall message dealing with very serious issues.

Yet despite all this it really is a marvel of film-making, the ambition of this story is huge and to tell it in such an unconventional way, you really have to give the film-makers praise.

Watching the film I was constantly thinking “This is so clever, this is so clever.” Not from the obvious graphics stand point (which are flawless), but from the genius of Wall-E and the other characters, how they move, how they interact with one another and how they communicate. How Pixar give these inanimate objects so much life and personality to tell an interesting and moving story, is just hands down magnificent.

Wall-E and Eva are both incredibly likable and their love story is told in a unique way, yet feels so familiar.

I must say I enjoyed the first act slightly more than the rest of film, the introduction contains some of the most original bits of filmmaking I’ve seen in years, especially in animation. The second and third acts are just as strong, but become a little more conventional with the introduction of the Captain and spoken dialogue, and therefore don’t quite have the same amount of charm as the first 35minutes.

The length of the film is something that puzzles me, as it is relatively short compared to last year’s Ratatouille and in context this does seem a bit strange. Bear in mind Ratatouille essentially told the story of a Rat in a kitchen, where as Wall-E tells the story of the human demise and rise across the Galaxy and it’s half an hour shorter! I suppose I’m only complaining because I wanted to spend more time with Wall-E which you can never say is a bad thing, but then again with no dialogue if it had been any longer the experience may have been over stretched.

Although it’s expected the graphics and music are both exceptional throughout the film, whether its the textured rust and decay of Wall-e or the ultra slick reflections on Eva, everything looks stunning.

Special mention for the sound design and effects should be mentioned as these are used exquisitely and really make the film what it is.

Wall-E isn’t quite perfect, but considering everything it achieves and its ambition, it is in a master-class of filmmaking.

One of Pixar’s best.

10/10

Read Full Review

Thursday, 10 July 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Pretty Darn Good!

Okay, I’m not really sure what happened, I wasn’t a fan of the first Narnia film (only watched 2/3rds and never got round to watching the end because it didn’t grab me), didn’t think the trailers looked that amazing and hadn’t bothered reading much about it at all.

Yet I actually really enjoyed Prince Caspian, it was definitely on par with some of the better films I’ve seen of the summer so far. I haven’t read any of the books so I can’t comment on it’s integrity to the source material, but as a film I had a pretty good time.

The story was relatively straightforward but entertaining, special effects and fight sequences were very good (even though they’re kid friendly) and everything ran at a brisk pace even though it was quite a long film.

Minus a few sequences that are very similar to Lord of the Rings, the film as a whole was solid. It kept a consistent tone throughout, balancing darkness with light-hearted comedy very well.

The action sequences were very well choreographed, especially a night-time flight infiltration of a castle and the climatic battle.

My other favourite scene, involved two disgusting creatures and the (almost) return of the Ice Queen. However, this did feel a bit out of place in the film (I imagine the book dedicated much more time to it and the build up, so the filmmakers felt they had to include it) it did just appear from nowhere in the context of the film. But as a standalone scene I loved it.

I had a surprising good time with this Narnia sequel (maybe because I wasn’t expecting much), but it’s always nice to be proved wrong once in awhile, and I'd actually quite like to see it again soon.

8.5/10

Read Full Review

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Hancock

There's heroes. There's superheroes. And then there's Hancock... Mmmm...

I find my feeling to Hancock to be very mundane, it was nowhere near as bad as a lot of people have been saying, but at the same time it wasn’t particularly special either. It was just a bit “blah” for lack of a better word.

This opinion runs throughout the entirety of the movie, special effects aren’t rubbish but their nothing new, story isn’t atrocious but is pretty straight forward, concept is sort of original but never fully expanded and so on.

Though it is worth pointing out that the acting from Will Smith, Charlize Theron and Jason Bateman is all top notch, despite the mediocre-ness of the film, they deliver some fairly decent performances.

I was a bit surprised at the tone of the film, the trailers make it out to be fairly light affair, yet Will Smith is taking this role very seriously and more in the vain of his “I am Legend” performance rather than say his “Independence Day” one. The last act especially changes direction, with a very dramatic, violent and heavy emotional sequence that is starkly contrasting to the films first half.

The film is very short and (based on what I’ve heard) has been heavily edited from it’s original cut. This is noticeable, and looks like after the initial cut was finished somebody went through and literally cut out anything that didn’t involve the three leads or was deemed too hard hitting for a summer audience, probably why the endings tone stands out so much.

A few plot holes and inconsistencies can be ignored, but I don’t see why after Charlize Theron’s character has spent so long hiding her secret, that she’d then decide to have a huge brawl with Hancock in front of hundreds of pedestrian spectators, which then becomes a pretty empty sequence when there was no real reason for it in the first place.

I thought Hancock was watchable and fairly entertaining, but I wouldn’t rush to see it again or protest at seeing it again either, it basically just fills a couple of hours of time.

7/10

Read Full Review