The Dark Knight Rises

I think anyone would agree that The Dark Knight was a tough act to follow. Nolan’s revamp of the classic superhero series is a stand-out of the genre and Heath Ledger received almost universal praise (and a posthumous Oscar) for his portrayal of the Joker. With Ledger’s passing, it raised the stakes even more. While Batman has faced countless villians in the comics and other incarnations, many are much too campy for Nolan’s vision, so he went with the lesser known but very brutal Bane (Tom Hardy), but to keep the masses happy, he threw in Anne Hathaway in a catsuit.
It’s been eight years since Harvey Dent’s and the public was told he was murder by Batman and only Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Bruce Wayne (aka Batman – Christian Bale) know the truth. Harvey Dent Day is a local holiday in Gotham, and Gordon’s life is falling apart due to the guilt. Wayne lives in a self-imposed exile somewhat crippled from injuries he endured as Batman. He encounters Catwoman (though she is never called Catwoman) as she steals his mother’s pearls and his fingerprints from his supposedly uncrackable safe. Meanwhile, Bane, a former member of the League of Shadows, is building an army in the sewers of Gotham. This is enough to convince Wayne to bring Batman back, much to the dismay of his butler and confidant Alfred (Michael Caine). After a showdown with Bane, Wayne finds himself in a legendary prison known as the pit, a hellish place that only one man, Bane, has escaped. He must return to form and return to Gotham, which has been taken over by Bane and other criminals and is facing a nuclear holocaust.
And now for the SPOILERS!!!!
As you can see this film has a lot of plot and not all of it makes complete sense. The biggest “Huh?” moment for me is when Bane hacks into the stock market and bankrupts Bruce Wayne. It was very well known that Bane held the stock exchange hostage that very day, so why isn’t this investigated more? Also, I also don’t know if I believed the big twist that Miranda (Marion Cotillard) was really Thalia Ghul’s daughter who was in cahoots with Bane to destroy Gotham. This was a surprising reveal, but it seems like a twist for the sake of a twist. I didn’t like this for two reasons: 1) I don’t believe Cotillard knows she’s Ghul in the earlier parts of the film. If you want to see an awesome twist, go watch Fight Club. When you rewatch it, you see the tightrope Helena Bonham Carter had to walk as Marla. This does not exist with Cotillard. She’s Miranda and then, suddenly, she’s Thalia. I’ve spoken about this with a fan of the Frank Black comics, where Thalia Ghul is a much bigger deal, so it was cool for him, but it fell flat for me. 2) It weakens the presence of Bane. As Thalia tells Batman her plan, Bane looks down on her like a puppy dog. This brutal monster, the one that escaped The Pit, the one who could bring Batman down, is some puppet on a string?
While it wasn’t as good as The Dark Knight, I didn’t expect it to be. That said, Hathaway is a lot of fun as Catwoman. Caine is heartbreaking as Alfred says good-bye to the boy he promised to protect. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is great as John Blake and really shaping up to be one of the most interesting actors of his generation. I wish we could get some Robin movies, especially since I’ve never been blown away by Bale’s Batman. Like the return of scarecrow as head of the kangaroo court, though if Ledger was alive, that would have totally been Joker’s role. Nolan is smart to gather so many top-notch actors (the cast includes four Oscar winners) because the performances keep you from noticing the plot holes, weaker spots, etc.
Overall a satisfying end to the series. Gives the audience a clear ending, while making them wish there was more to come.

Programming note: Will be out of town next week so my brother will be guest blogging for me.

Midnight in Paris

If you’re a screenwriter, you’re almost required to have opinions about Woody Allen. As a woman, I am constantly reminded that he married his step-daughter (however they do have one of the longest running marriages in Hollywood) and can’t help but question his motives when he makes multiple films with Scarlett Johansen. Woody Allen makes films for himself, first and foremost. He is definitely one of the most self-involved filmmaker of all-time, but when his work speaks to you, it is even more powerful because it is so personal. While I am somewhat predisposed to enjoy Allen’s work due to my love of dialogue, I found Midnight in Paris to be one of his more charming films.

Writer Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) travels to Paris with his fiancé, Inez (Rachel McAdams) while struggling to complete his novel. Gil is very romantic about Paris, particularly the Paris of the 1920s, much to ihs fiancé’s annoyance. As Gil wanders the city at midnight, he suddenly finds himself in the Paris of the 1920s, surrounded by artists like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemmingway. He also falls in love with Adriana (Marion Cotillard) who is sort of a 1920s painter groupie and argues that the true Golden Age of Paris was the late 19th century – la Belle Epoque.

If you know anything about art and literature of the 1920s, the film becomes a lot of fun as you try to guess who’s who. It really brought out my inner snob as I found myself saying out loud, “Of course that’s Man Ray.” I think this film really touches on the true fact that we all think we were born in the wrong time. The problem with nostalgia is that we always remember the good or at least interesting bits. Every era has elements that are forgettable or downright awful.

I think Owen Wilson is a really great fit for Allen’s style. There’s an obnoxiousness to Allen’s leads that Wilson’s laidback likeability balances out. Gil is self-involved, pretentious, and narcissistic, and worst of all ,he thinks it’s everyone else that’s guilty of these sins, but Wilson’s floppy hair and childlike approach to the magic that surrounds him redeems him. I hope Allen and Wilson continue to work together as it is clear Allen has struggled to find someone to take his place in his own films as he’s aged. However, I found the choice to have Gil’s fiancé admit to cheating while in Paris to be an obvious attempt to excuse Gil’s less than gentlemanly behavior. It’s ok that he has fallen head over heels for the enchanting Adriana, because McAdams was a cheating whore!

While I doubt Allen will ever make a film that comes close to Annie Hall, he can still make films that say something the human experience. In the film, Inez’ parents rave about a wonderful film they saw just the night before, but they can’t remember the title. Wonderful but forgettable might be a harsh description of Midnight in Paris, perhaps an unremarkable delight. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself looking up airline prices for a trip to Paris.

Favorite Quote:

Man Ray: A man in love with a woman from a different era. I see a photograph!
Luis Buñuel: I see a film!
Gil: I see insurmountable problem!
Salvador Dalí: I see rhinoceros!