The Dark Knight Rises Review

Over the weekend I saw The Dark Knight Rises at the i-max in Waterloo, here is what I thought…

(SPOILERS)

When it was first announced officially that Chris Nolan would be making a third installment to his Dark Knight trilogy I was a little sceptical. It seemed as though the film-maker had little to no interest in returning to Gotham and completing the trilogy and I was worried this would have a negative impact on the film’s quality. That changed when I was lucky enough to see the 6 minute prologue at the i-max in Waterloo a few months ago, the quality and spectacle in that opening sequence completely dispelled any doubts that I may have had about this films quality.

I’m not going to recount the plot here because I hate it when people do that in reviews, instead I’m just going to talk about the things I liked, and the one thing I felt a little let down by.

The Dark Knight Rises is a huge, grand, epic film. There is so much spectacle on display here that I’d say if you can see it on 70mm at an i-max then go do it now. Nolan uses every inch of the screen to great effect and in my opinion the i-max screen pulls you into the film in a far more effective way than 3D ever could.

I loved Bane, he’s a smart villain that always seems to be one step a head in the game. His voice was great and I absolutely loved how he constantly spoke in such grandiose metaphors (“You think darkness is your ally, but you merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it” possibly my favourite quote from the film). I’ve read some reviews that question his motivation…were these reviewers actually watching the film? It is quite clearly stated he is there to fulfill Ra’s and The League of Shadows mission from Batman Begins, he wants to destroy Gotham. He also states why he has such a problem with Bruce Wayne/Batman, he feels that he is a traitor to the league, he even tells him directly to his face during the sewer fight scene!

In my opinion this was Christian Bale’s best performance as Batman (the best performance as Batman of any actor in fact), and that’s because this really was Bruce Wayne’s story. He spent most of the film being battered and beaten down until he reached his very lowest point of the trilogy and it made his eventual rise even greater. The focus on Bruce made every scene with Batman even more engaging, the excitement I felt the first time he pulled back on the cape and cowl to bring down Bane’s thugs was sky high!

The rest of the returning cast weren’t given too much to do, Lucius Fox was pretty much sidelined, Alfred was given a small but significant part to play and Commissioner Gordon’s usual part was pretty much taken over by John Blake. Which brings me to one of my favourite parts of the film, the John Blake story arc. I really enjoyed Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance and thought his ending was great. I would like to see Warner Bro’s take the route set up by this character’s arc and use JGL as a new Batman/Nightwing rather producing a reboot of this reboot…

Getting to the female cast members I thought Marion Cotillard did well in another small but significance role. Anne Hathaway was brilliant as Selina Kyle (Catwoman in all but name) she completely proved all the doubters wrong with a charismatic and often scene stealing performance, which was needed to bring a little levity and charm that may other wise been lacking.

The one thing I didn’t like? How things ended for Bane. I felt a villain of his stature and prowess deserved a little more than what he got. Another slight niggle is that I would have liked to seen some explanation as to how Bruce got back from prison, they never actually state where the prison is either. The only time it’s location is mentioned is when Alfred says it’s in an ancient part of the world, so I assumed it was an Aztec prison located somewhere in Mexico, but would have liked a scene showing Bruce sneak through customs/past border patrol, but those are only small nitpicks in the grand scheme of things.

All in all I thought it was a very good film, not as good as The Dark Knight but very much a worthy ending to a great trilogy.

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Why I love…Superhero Films & Christopher Nolan

We appear to be in the middle of what could be described as a Golden Age of superhero films, here’s why this makes me exceedingly happy…

First off, a little bit of history. I am a comic book fan, have been since I was a kid and my Dad peeked my interest by getting me to read Spider-man and X-men comics. I was a huge fan of the Tim Burton Batman films, the Richard Donner Superman films, as well as all the animated TV shows that were on television in the early 90’s when I was a child. I should probably point out that to this day, Wolverine remains my favourite comic book character.

As I got older I started reading comics that weren’t strictly about superhero’s and getting into the work of Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman and of course the great Alan Moore. I’ve really enjoyed most of the films based on the work of these three as well, in particular, Sin City, V for Vendetta and Watchman. From Hell and Stardust were both good films that didn’t quite hit the standard of the three I previously mentioned and I think we can all agree that the less is said about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen the better…

It was while I was a teenager that this current trend of superhero films got going, in particular when the X-Men and Spider-man films hit. I loved them. Looking back I still think Spider-man 2 is the best film based on a Marvel comics character (and yes I include The Avengers in that), I think Raimi’s first two Spidey films are severely under-appreciated and that people use the huge misstep that was the third instalment to trash them all. Alfred Molina’s portrayal of Dr. Octopus is easily one of my favourite performances in a comic book film. While we’re talking about under-appreciated films, I would like to take a moment to say I think Superman Returns is a very good film. I wish they had made a sequel because I think Singer would have taken the franchise to new heights of which we had yet to see even in Donner’s two films.

I consider myself to be a Marvel boy, but, as far as the films are concerned I think that Christopher Nolan’s Batman films are by far the greatest comic book films ever made. Batman Begins is easily the best origins story ever told, the fact that it takes around an hour for Batman to appear and still remains a great Batman film is testament to the talent Chris Nolan possesses. The man just simply knows how to make a great film. I was a Nolan fan before he got started on the Batman franchise (Following and Memento being two personal favourites) but even I was sceptical that this guy that produced a few small scale thrillers was capable of doing the caped crusader justice on the big screen.

Well if Batman Begins proved me wrong then The Dark Knight just hammered the point into my skull. It’s been said time and time again but The Dark Knight really is the best comic book film ever made. It doesn’t stick to a rigid formula and it doesn’t follow the rules most blockbusters do. The part of the film that to my mind illustrated this best is the chase scene. The film has music running throughout (like all blockbusters do) but at the point when the chase starts, rather than ramp up the music to tell us “shit is going down” the music cuts out and all we get is the sound of the vehicles and the street. It’s so simple yet so effective. Not to mention the absolutely superb all round performance from the cast, it goes without saying Heath Ledger was phenomenal as the Joker but I’ve always thought that Aaron Eckhart’s performance as Harvey Dent was very under-rated.

Needless to say I am rather excited about the imminent release of The Dark Knight Rises. My favourite thing about Chris Nolan as a film-maker is his reluctance to use CGI and 3D. Everything you see in his films is real, whether it’s through the use of scale models, controlled explosive or water canons, pretty much everything you see on screen is actually there and not a computer generated image on a green screen and it’s that kind of purity that I hope stays alive in film-making in the future.

Anyone who really cares about film-making will be hoping The Dark Knight Rises is a huge success, so that our blockbusters don’t become an endless parade of CGI and 3D gimmickry.


Storyboards and Writing…

Right, so my partner in film-making (not life, although some would make that argument) is off to the Benicassim music festival for a couple of weeks. Thus leaving me here in the cold rainy night to storyboard our next short all on my lonesome.

Storyboards are hard. Mainly because I can not draw at all and partly because it’s time consuming.

One thing that I find helps me is to keep it all as simple as possible, don’t try and put too much detail in there, just get the basics. Once you have the basic idea of what the scene will look like the rest seems to just fall into place. I must point out these storyboards are not for the same short we’ve been planning for AGES. This is another practice short, to just try a few things out and make sure our film-making capabilities are up to the standard we hope they are.

We’re planning to film maybe 3 shorts in the next 2 months, then another two after that, leading into a longer short (20-30 minutes long) which we are looking at as being something of a sample as to how close we are to being able to shoot a feature. Hopefully we’ll be ready, then after that we can focus on making a feature film, which is what this is all about isn’t it?

Speaking of a feature, I’ve been rather busy with the scriptwriting lately. The latest script that has potential to be our debut feature is tentatively titled “Hell of a Day!” and is about a homeless girl that receives a set of keys to a house. From there it all gets a bit crazy, I’m currently finishing off the second draft and it’s getting rather entertaining if I do say so myself. I enjoy rewriting, I like going back through and finding improvements to make, unneeded scenes to delete, characters to merge and the challenge to try and turn every scene into a good short film in it’s own right.

My hope is that I’ll have 3-4 potential scripts for us to choose from when it’s time for us to produce our first feature. So far there is this, Hadley’s Got A Problem and Pestilence. If I’m being honest Hell of a Day looks to be the best bet, Pestilence is a little to generic and to be honest Hadley’s Got… is very Wes Andersonish, which is something my early scripts all were. But in the last year or so I’ve purposely stayed away from Wes like material to try and stop this trend in my writing, which for the most part has been a success.

So yea, there’s a little update for anyone that actually cares. I said I was going to blog more often and I meant it…I’m definitely going to try and keep it up!


Why I Love…Woody Allen

“Dying is one of the few things that can be done as easily lying down” – Woody Allen

So I got a little spare time this afternoon and figured what the hell, let’s stick up another blog post! I’m a huge Woody Allen fan and so decided I’d do a quick post on why I love him so much.

When asked in an interview about his fans recently Woody replied – “I don’t know who they are, because they don’t seem to be any discern­ible group. They’re not older people, but they’re not young people. They’re not college kids. They’re not out-of-towners. I really don’t know who they are. I know this: There are not many of them.”

Well there may not be many of us but we are fiercely loyal and are all totally in love with everything this man creates. What other filmmaker has made a film a year for the last 40 years? Who else has been as consistently funny and appealed to so many different generations? Who else sacks off the Oscars (even when nominated) to instead hit a jazz bar and jam on the clarinet all night?

Often imitated but never equaled, Woody Allen is a genius writer/director/comedian. With Annie Hall he practically invented the modern romantic comedy and shook things up with it’s non linear style, very much a deserving multiple Oscar winner.

My personal favorite has got to be Sweet and Lowdown, even if it is just for Emmet Ray’s many amazing lines  (“wanna go to the dump and shoot some rats?” “First time I had sex, 7 years old” and the best one, while Hattie is replacing a tire on his car “What’s the matter? Nobody said it was going to be a picknick. You know I can’t risk my hands”). I love Sean Penn and Samantha Morton’s performances as well, both are perfect as the arrogant jazz guitarist and sweet mute girl.

I’m really excited for From Rome With Love, mostly because it serves as Woody’s return to acting. Owen Wilson, Larry David etc. have been great in his absence but I’ve got a feeling seeing Woody back on the big screen again is going to be something special. I just hope it gets a UK release date soon and that we don’t have to wait months after everywhere else has already seen it!

Basically I am a low-culture person. I prefer watching baseball with a beer and some meatballs.” – Woody Allen


Moonrise Kingdom

So I figured I’d do a review of sorts…

Over the last few months I’ve barely written on here and it’s basically because all my writing time has been taken up by scripts/storyboards. Also my writing time has taken a significant dent given that Euro 2012 has been on…

But today before the second semi-final gets underway I thought I’d do a review of Moonrise Kingdom, my favorite film of 2012 so far…

Most people agree that Wes Anderson’s first three features (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and Royal Tenenbaums) are great, but feel that his latter work is all style and severely lacking in substance. While some (like me) feel that all of his work is of the same high standard and that his unique style sets him apart from pretty much every other director working today. Needless to say Moonrise Kingdom had a lot riding on it with huge expectation from the believers and naysayers a like.

In my opinion the film more than delivers on these expectations. It has everything we’ve all come to expect from a Wes Anderson picture plus a whole lot more. The addition of Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Ed Norton, Tilda Swinton and the two young leads adds a great new dimension to the regular cast members of Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman (although I have to admit that I missed the presence of a Wilson Brother).

Unlike Wes’ other films this was a lot more plot driven than character in my opinion and it was nice change, some people have criticized the final act and have stated that the films tone is a little erratic. I don’t see it, maybe I’m blind with bias for all Wes does (I say maybe but mean definitely)  but I loved the final act, it was so over the top and yes it shifted in tone from the rest of the film but I like it when a film keeps me on my toes!

As you would expect his usual visual flair and style is on full show, I feel it’s become a redundant topic with his films now, he has his style, you either like it or you don’t. I LOVE IT!

So yea in summary, I loved Moonrise Kingdom, it is by far the best film I have seen in 2012 (I think To Rome With Love and The Dark Knight Rises may give it a run for it’s money however) and I would advise you all to go and see it as soon as you possibly can before it leaves cinema’s!


I am still doing this…

Right, yes, so here’s the thing, I haven’t posted on here for a ridiculously long time, but, I have a good reason for not doing so. I’ve been busy.

That’s it.

To be honest I’ve spent pretty much all of my free writing time working on my feature script (it’s a contained thriller that I am hoping to shoot next year) and the rest of my free time is spent working on Eject Films current short project. It’s tough. Juggling so many different commitments can be tiring and there are times when you just feel as though you can’t be bothered and would much rather just sit down, stick on the telly and crack open a beer. But, alas for me this is not an option, I’m on a schedule and I’m not willing to make it longer in order to make things easier for myself in the short term because I need to get out of the day to day 9 to 5 grind of the office as quickly as I possibly can.

I’d shoot our debut feature tomorrow if I could, but the script is no where near ready and I would quite like to get some money to make it with. The main thing keeping me going is the thought that one day it will all work out and I will get to do what I love for a living.

I guess I could tell you a little about the feature script I’m working on. It’s basically about a homeless girl that wakes up one day to find an address and a set of keys has been given to her, she goes to the house and this is where the fun and games begin! I like writing female characters that are tough and not averse to getting their hands dirty so to speak and the lead in this gets to kick some arse.

So yea that’s about it for now, I will try and right more regularly, honest. I saw Moonrise Kingdom last week, and if you’ve read any of my posts before you’ll know that I love me some Wes Anderson. So don’t be surprised if I put up another post this week which is all about that!


test shoots…

It’s been a little while since I last posted and for that I apologise profusely, I started a new temp job recently so just been adapting to my new schedule, but this blog isn’t about the boring, dull, mind numbing, office based part of my life…it’s about the fun film based part.

So, the good news is that we have almost finished the test shoots and we have sorted out all of the locations, the bad news is that we still can’t decide on an actress. I’m starting to think we may be setting our sights to high and that we might have to settle for an actress that isn’t exactly what we had in mind. Once we have an actress we’ll set a date for filming, that said we will definitely film this month so that we have enough time to edit before submitting to the Raindance Film Festival which has a late entry date of June via Withoutabox.

The test footage is looking fantastic and we are feeling very confident that this will be by far our best short to date. The locations we’ve gotten so far are great as well, we found the perfect place to film our Russian Roulette Deer Hunter parody scene and a great spot to do a Fight Club style scene as well.

We’ll probably have our next production meeting on Tuesday at the local Weatherspoons pub as we usually do (Tuesday is steak night afterall) and I’ll see if my film-making partner can send me over some of the test footage so that I can post some of the stills up. So expect another post from me in the week! Thanks for reading guys, it’s much appreciated!