Saturday, July 21, 2012

[Batman] The Dark Knight Rises

Plot:  Batman/Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has been retired for eight years. Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) shows up at at Wayne Manor to steal Bruce Wayne's fingerprints and a pearl necklace. Catwoman sells the fingerprints to Dagget, a rival millionaire (Ben Mendelsohn.) Dagget hires Bane (Tom Hardy) to takeover a stock exchange and enter false transactions (using the fingerprints) to bankrupt Wayne Industries. Bane has other plans, and creates a mercenary army in the sewers, and using a nuclear bomb stolen from Wayne Industries as bait, he traps the police force underground, and blows up all the bridges. Bane takes over the city and begins to kill the government officials, the police, and rich people generally. Bane gives a speech with pro-communist ideology and releases all the prisoners. Bane then beats up Batman and puts him in prison. Batman eventually escapes, and with help from Commissioner Gordon saves the day. [imdb link]    [photos]

Review: This is a dark tense movie with a lot of pain and striving by all. It is not a feel-good summer escapist blockbuster, because shows a bleak world where neither the rich nor the poor nor the criminals are happy. Bruce Wayne fights purposelessness, and the villains seem to be more ideologically pure than the government. Batman himself is brooding and self-absorbed. Although the bad guys are defeated, the end is not especially happy.

I liked the story because it was complicated and still easy to follow. (Except for the post-ending scene at the end, which was bogus -- see spoiler below.)  There was lots of conflict between well developed characters. 

The music is dramatic, and the special effects are great -- especially the motorcycle rides. The action scenes are not so much spectacular as tense and dramatic. I got a little tired of the helicopter. 

Early there are some 1% vs. 99% lines, and the good guys try to align with the 99%. Once Bane hits the scene with his revolution, the politics goes away and its cops and robbers. The ideology is used to give the villains a purpose, but not more than that. That is Bane is not building a communist utopia after he frees the prisoners from the prisons. 

Cast: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Thomas Hardy, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Rating:   2.5 stars: A good story; more successful as a drama than as an action movie. Fun, but not super fun. 

More: MAJOR SPOILER At the end, Batman saves the city by sacrificing himself, carrying a nuclear bomb away. There is a funeral and nice words, then in a post-ending Alfred (Michael Caine) sees Bruce Wayne in Italy.  What the heck!?  If they wanted a happy scene at the end, then they needed to write a script that delivered one, not just staple it on.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

To Rome with Love

Plot: To Rome with Love has four comic vignettes set in Rome that are intercut together; there are twenty characters, with so much story that I can't describe it all here. One story is about a mortician who sings opera, but only in the shower; another about two honeymooners who come to Rome who get separated and then hook-up with others; another about a woman who puts up a friend, who then steals her boyfriend; another about a regular guy who suddenly becomes famous for being famous -- and how it affects his life.
[imdb link]    [photos]

Review: Overall, it was a fun movie. Vignettes lend themselves to light comedy. Each of the four stories had well-developed likable characters, and the dialog is always good. The famous guy's (Roberto Benigni) segment is all in Italian with subtitles, but it is easy to follow.

Even though To Rome with Love is all for fun, the stories are intelligent and make an occasional political or societal point.

Alec Baldwin has an interesting role; he starts as a regular character in the story about the boyfriend stealer, but soon he become an on-screen advisor and conscience for the soon-to-be cheating boyfriend -- like a little angel on the shoulder to talk to.

Ellen Page played the girl hustling her friend's boyfriend, and she did a great job creating a character in just a few minutes. The script and dialog were also great.

The movie is a big commercial to visit Rome, but the photography is not super-great. Mostly the people talk about the city, and the best video are simple street scenes.   The music is old-fashioned, and the credits are especially old-fashioned.

Overall, the highlights are the dialog and the light comic fun. The downsides are that he lightness means lack of substance, but its July -- that is OK. Woody Allen gets criticized that his movies are either all the same, or that they are uneven in quality. This one isn't trying to be Annie Hall or Interiors.

Cast: Flavio Parenti, Roberto Benigni, Alison Pill, Ellen Page, Alessandro Tiberi, Judy Davis, Allessandra Mastronardi, Alec Baldwin, Carol Alt, David Pasquesi, Lynn Swanson, Woody Allen, Penelope Cruz

Written and directed by: Woody Allen

Rating:   3.0 stars is a little generous; perhaps 3-: because it was fun; because the dialog was so good; because if you see it you'll like it. 

More: Better than Midnight in Paris, better than Whatever Works, not as good as Vicky Christina Barcelona.

Even more: Woody Allen is a master of dialog.