THE DARK KNIGHT (NOLAN’S 2ND BATMAN EFFORT)

And might I add, a very good second effort!

A great absense of posting (end of semester, an editing gig, a family va-cay) has made me lacklusture about goldstars but after a viewing of The Dark Knight (somewhat later than I would have liked) I feel all inspired to return to the world of blog.

 

THE SET UP?

Following the beginning of Batman just a few years ago Bruce Wayne is continuing to live his playboy lifestyle by day (and dusk) and donning the black cape and horns at night. But it seems that the streets of Gotham are being cleaned up – mainly through the efforts of the new District Attorney Harvey Dent, who is “with” Bruce’s sweetheart Rachel. BUT there’s a new villain in town, guess who. You’ve all probably seen it by now but still I won’t give anymore away.

 

THE CAST?

Heath Ledger – The Joker. I can’t help but putting him first. He is amazing. Really. It may not be the most endearing character to be ultimately remembered for, but in terms of his acting legacy – this film leaves it solid.

Christian Bale – Bruce Wayne/Batman. Bale takes a back seat in this one to Ledger, Eckhart and even Freeman. So in a way its tricky to evaluate his performance. As much as I love Bale as an actor he didn’t really stand out in this at all.

Aaron Eckhart – Harvey Dent/Two Face. The scariest Two Face ever – but that’s more down to the make up department. Eckhart is good in this. He’s not a standout, he’s solid. I didn’t find the transition from Harvey Dent to Two Face in terms of the personality of the character all that convincing. 

Michael Caine – Alfred. Gotta love Alfred. Caine delivers a brilliant performance as ever. He is given some of the better lines in the film, but he does an excellent job as ever in his role. 

Morgan Freeman – Lucius Fox. Its so nice to have Freeman in a film role where he doesn’t double as the narrator these days – its getting rarer and rarer. He is good in this, not excellent but still good.

Maggie Gyllenhaal – Rachel Dawes. I have great respect for Maggie Gyllenhaal as an actor, however, I’m not really happy with her replacement as Rachel Dawes after Katie Holmes decided she didn’t want to reprise her role (bet she’s regretting that now!). There are very few similarities with the two actors’ portrayal of the character and it makes Gyllenhaal as Dawes harder to believe – it seems more like a totally new character.

Gary Oldman – Lt. James Gordon. Another fine older actor. Oldman plays Gordon real and believable.

 

WHY SHOULD YOU SEE THIS FILM?

I feel this is the first film that I blog about that I don’t really have to try to convince you to see. By the stats already released about The Dark Knight it would seem most of you have already seen it (in its first three days it outsold the entire cinema run of Batman Begins). EVEN SO – here are the reasons: Ledger – you’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t make it to the cinema to catch this phenomenal actors last complete film performance- , the imagination of the astonishingly brilliant director- Christopher Nolan – having directed and (co) wrote for The Dark Knight Nolan serves up a treat for the audience. Even if Batman, action, violence and psychopaths isn’t your cup of tea I believe you will be entertained by this film – every aspect of it nears perfection. That being said it seems a bit of a waste to use two old school Batman villains in the one film. It meant that the film stretched out to 2.5 hours (not necessarily a bad thing) and each actor had a lot less screen time than in the first film. In that way, I hate to do this, but it reminded me a bit of Spiderman 3. 

 

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? 

Even though I practically said go see this film even if you don’t like film action, violence etc I doubt any of you would go take a five year old (or young kids in general) to this one – and you shouldn’t. Also, maybe mum and the grandparents aren’t a good idea either. 

 

ANY BITS?

Action. Violence. Psychopaths. But on the upside – limited to no swearing and no raunchy scenes.Yet again on the flip side – this is the scariest Two Face EVER – and even I kind of squinted when he was on screen. It is quite full on. 

 

THIS FILM GETS 4.25 GOLD STARS.

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Sorry it took so long

logoI hope you all out there will indulge this very Australian-centric post.Today, after decades of waiting Australia’s indigenous population will finally hear an official apology from the current Australian government for previous Australian governments policies of removing aboriginal children from their families. This was government policy and happened for half a century in Australia and was the leading cause of the degradation of their culture.Unlike some commonwealth and colonised countries, Australia shuns its indigenous peoples and has up until now failed to officially acknowledge the irrevocable damage caused by its governmental policies.Today this is changing. Thank God.poster There has been very few Australian films (full stop, but especially) that have dealt with issues of aboriginality. It would seem. not only do we want them ignored in our “multicultural” society but also in our entertainment. However there is one film that comes to mind, by the skilled and experienced Australian director Phillip Noyce: Rabbit Proof Fence.If you haven’t seen this film I encourage you to see it, depending on where you live it may be hard to find it. There are also several clips of the film on youtube.Last year I wrote a paper for my Australian cinema class about how aboriginality has been shown throughout Australia’s film history. Here is an excerpt:”The media is often a reflection of the dominant attitudes and values of a society; the medium of film is no exception. Through looking at Australian films of the last century we are able learn something of the attitudes that existed towards the indigenous population. Firstly it is important to note that it is only recently, in the last twenty years, that indigenous Australians have taken positions behind the camera. poster Since the 1920’s aboriginals have been in front of camera, blatantly portrayed, almost without exception, as savages. Exploitation of indigenous Australians in film was commonplace, further accentuating the belief of the aboriginal as ‘other’. They were either seen as part of the flora and fauna, mysterious forces to overcome, or ‘sub-hominids’. Racial prejudice continued into the 1970’s, perhaps in a more sophisticated fashion than in earlier days but was manifest in the misrepresentation of history, the aboriginal culture and oversimplifying moral and social issues. Indigenous characters were crafted to add to the stereotyped ideas about the aboriginal people rather than the characters being individuals who were also aboriginal. The use of aboriginals in film was never as protagonist, the aboriginal characters were never designed to be understood by the audiences, they served the function of savage, or noble savage.”…girls with neville“Films exploring indigenous issues in Australia do not come more perfectly realised than Phillip Noyce’s Rabbit Proof Fence. Noyce left Hollywood, where he had established himself as a prominent film director, to return to Australia and direct Christine Olsen’s adaptation of Doris Pilkington Garimare’s text Following the Rabbit Proof Fence. The story concerns three young “half-caste” girls, two sisters and their cousin, Molly, Daisy and Gracie (respectively) who were removed from their mothers in 1931 and taken to Moore River Native Settlement under the order of the chief protector of Western Australia A. O. Neville (Kenneth Branagh), 1600 miles from their home in Jigalong. The eldest of the three girls, Molly (played by Everlyn Sampi) convinces her sister and cousin to escape and the three set out on the near impossible journey home. The rabbit-proof fence that stretched from the south of the continent to the north was their guide home. The two sisters made it back to their mother at Jigalong, but Gracie was recaptured and returned to Moore River. the tracker The three girls made their journey with the help of some aboriginals and Europeans along the way, pursued by the police and aboriginal tracker Moodoo played masterfully by David Gulpilil. Noyce says he was attracted to the project because it was an emotional and compelling story, but also because it was a true story and the films central protagonists are alive today. The film concludes with narration from the real Molly, in her native tongue, and footage of Molly and Daisy at Jigalong. The decision to conclude the film in this way was nothing short of inspired. Veteran American film reviewer Roger Ebert revealed that ‘not since the last shots of “Schindler’s List” have I been so overcome with the realization that real people, in recent historical times, had to undergo such inhumanity’. “

ATONEMENT

POSTER INITIAL RANTING I first saw this film Dec 27 last year but I decided I wanted to see Atonement a second time before doing a review on it.
Its that kind of a brilliant film that demands a second viewing before passing judgment on it – its just so rich.

Well, I guess its clear from that introduction what I think of the film.

As I mentioned in my previous post I love this new director who hails from the BBC, Joe Wright. His first film, an adaption of Pride and Prejudice was just superb (I don’t care what you Jane Austen purist think) and in this his second film he proves he is definitely a young director to keep an eye on.

THE SET UP? Cecilia, Briony and their parents live an upper-middle class existence in the 1930’s. Their housekeeper’s son, Robbie, has recently returned from studies and is keeping the garden. On one hot summers’ day, as Briony is entertaining cousins from the north, the sexual tension between Cecelia and Robbie comes to a head. On this day Briony witnesses two incidents her thirteen year-old brain cannot seperate/comprehend. This leads her to accuse Robbie of a terrible crime he didn’t commit. Four years later, in the middle of WWII, Robbie is trying to make his way back home from France, Celicia is a ward nurse at a war hospital and Briony is trying to atone for her crime against Robbie and Cecilia.

THE CAST? (in order of performance cred)
Briony and Robbie at the house Saoirse Ronan is Briony (at 13) – This young actress is stunning and just amazing as the thirteen year old writer/control freak who is deeply conflicted. Ronan blissfully conveys the cogs turning in Briony’s brain through the simplest of looks. Needless to say Joe Wright is an actor’s director (just look at what he got out of Knightley in Pride) but all power to Ronan for her performance here, I don’t think I’ve seen such a great performance out of a young star in a long time. She’s right up there with Keisha Castle Hughes in Whale Rider.
James McAvoy is Robbie. Aaahhhhh!!!!!! I just can’t believe how good this guy is, its like he came from no where, did the Idi Armin film (holding his own against Forrest Whitaker in his oscar-winning role) and now he’s playing Robbie – a character deeply deeply heartbroken by the lies that destroyed his reputation and his soul. I just can’t say any more about McAvoy in this film. He better win the BAFTA, that’s all I can say.
Keira Knightley is Cecilia. I didn’t want to mention her right up front, even though she is the biggest name attached to Atonement. It was nice to see Knightley in a role where she’s not the centre of attention – actually that’s not entirely accurate – she’s been in heaps of films where she’s not the centre of the piece. I guess she just really wanted to work with Wright again, and who can blame her, he’s the reason for her oscar nom a few years back). No… I’m being too harsh to the stick insect – in this, she is good, not as good as in Pride (although my cousin disagrees with me), but still good. Worthy of the role.
Romola Garai – Briony aged 18. I like Romola Garai, maybe because her name is so fun to say (Romola Garai, Romola Garai, Garai Romola) or maybe because I keep seeing her pop up unexpectedly in movies I see. Not one for the lime light – although that should change – Garai is undervalued as Briony aged 18, really it is she who has to carry the weight of the character’s realisation of her lies and the beginning of the atonement. She is great in this – and a perfect cast after Ronan.

Celicia sends letter to RobbieWHY SHOULD YOU SEE THIS FILM? Arghhhhh, I feel ill-equipped to explain to you all the reasons why this film is an instant classic, an absolute diamond. Let me just say that Wright is a brilliant director who makes great texts into great films – stylistically, “act-ingly”, the score is superb – I can’t say enough about the score!!! And there’s this one scene of recovering soldiers on a beach that will take your breath away – trust me. If Keira Knightley is the reason you’re not seeing this film – just pretend its someone with less of a pout and built like a normal person.

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? Because the content is heavy-going I would suggest a close friend/movie companion or a group of film fanatics so you can rave about it afterwards!

ANY BITS TO KNOW ABOUT BEFORE? It is definitely a mature-aged film. Personally I would say for 18 year-olds and above (The Australian Film and Literature Classifiers have given it an MA15+ rating). Its not overly graphic when it comes to sex but its dealt with so splendidly it feels like its more graphic than it really is. Watch out for Robbie’s typing too! For specifics see here.

THIS FILM GETS 4.5 GOLD STARS

CITIZEN KANE

Welles at Citizen KaneFor my first review I’m going to have a look at what many believe to be the greatest film of the 20th Century. Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane(1941). The first and last film a director was given completer creative control over a project. And the director in question was only 24 years old.

INITIAL RANTING: I first heard of this movie in my first ever film tutorial at Deakin Uni. The tutor and some learned students were chatting away about this amazing something, from what I could gather, it sounded like Awesome Wells. A few hours later we were sitting hushed in our first lecture for the same class awaiting our eccentric and passionate lecturer who would introduce me to one of the most amazing film experiences of my life.

The lights in the large lecture theatre went down and silence enveloped the space as a black and white frame emerged on the screen. The strange beginning of this film adds to its genius, the unrecognizable figure subtly writhing on a bed in a castle is covered with strange angles as the character utters a single word, “Rosebud”.
Next there is the booming voice of Orson Welles, one of the most brilliant creative minds of the early twentieth century, in my meager opinion.

Two hours later we were released from the trance Welles had put us under and vacated the theatre in such a hurried manner the lecturer appeared rather distressed, no real reason for this mass exodus other than that the lecture had gone over by five minutes.

I may be putting a rather glamourous spin on Citizen Kane but countless reviewers and surveys have placed this film, Orson Welles first ever film, as one of, if not the greatest of all time.

THE PLOT? Citizen Kane is the story of the rise and fall of a (somewhat) fictional media mogul. It outlines the drama of Charles Foster Kane’s life from adoption as a young boy, through media acquirements, marriages, and scandals. However Welles decided to make the film as a retrospect. Beginning with Kane dying and uttering that single word and then the media scramble to find out the meaning behind this word for Kane. Leading one reporter to interview people who knew Kane and then dissolving to flash backs from the man’s troubled life.

Poster
THE CAST? Who else would play Kane in Orson Welles’ directoral debut but Welles himself, fresh off a stellar career in theatre radio in New York where he orchestrated the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast.
The rest of the cast is made up with Welles’ theatre radio troupe, people who remained largely unknown after the film was exhibited.

THE BUZZ? This retrospective critical success was almost killed before anyone ever saw it because of its obvious references to the Rupert Murdoch of the day, William Randolph Hearst. Controversy had served the 24 year old Welles well up to this point, and had been the reason for his contract with Hollywood the overt criticism of Hearst within Citizen Kane ensured it flopped at the box office and did not receive the critical acclaim it deserved at the time. Citizen Kane also ensured that no director would ever have complete creative control over a studio production. Ever.

WHY SHOULD YOU SEE IT? If you consider yourself a serious film watcher it is compulsory viewing. It just is. The acting, the screenplay, the cinematography, the before its time editing skill and just to say you have seen one of the most profound films ever made. Reporters

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? Anyone really, preferably not people who don’t appreciate a good film though. (Please refer to my definition of a good film.)

ANY BITS TO BE WORRIED ABOUT? None at all. But its probably boring for kids.

THIS FILM GETS 4.5 GOLD STARS.