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.

SPEED RACER

I know what you’re all thinking…

This will be… stupid.

And depending on your particular tastes in film you could be right…

But I must say I thought Speed Racer a masterpiece of digital film making. 

 

THE SET UP? Speed Racer, yes that’s his actual name, has been obsessed with car racing and nothing else since childhood. Race car driving for his family is like a religion. But when Speed’s older brother (Rex Racer), the greatest driver, like, ever, dies in a dangerous race the family grows cynical and steps back a bit from their zealous ways. But not entirely, as a few years later Speed emerges as the hottest new driver on the circuit. 

After corporate flirting Speed discovers what the industry is really about and decides the powers who control and fix the races need to be brought to justice. He goes with the help of his family, girlfriend (oooh!) and the mysterious Racer X. 


THE CAST? 

Emile Hirsch – this guy is good. He is excellent as Speed Racer. Similarly to Robert Downey Jr. inIronman (and yes I did just compare an actor you’ve probably never heard of to the great Downey Jr.). Hirsch brings credibility and authenticity to a character in an especially artificial (READ: “blue screen”) world.

Christina Ricci – where did she come from, again? Ricci plays the loyal and supportive, one-of-the-family girl beside Speed’s side. Her performance is quality. She has an adorable chemistry with Hirsch (note: but entirely ok for the younger kids). 

Susan Sarandon – Mom Racer. Sarandon is splendid in whatever she does. She can more or less do no wrong. Her beautiful character in Speed Racer is no exception. Though this is a “kids” movie, she almost made me cry in one scene.

John Goodman – Pops Racer. Nice to see the big guy back on the big screen. He’s great and entirely appropriate as Speed’s dad. He adds pathos to his character, especially when it comes to his relationship with his two racing sons and the speedy spor without it seeming out of place for this genre. (-which I’m still trying to define).

Kick Gurry – gets no billing but I’d like to give the Aussie come kudos here. He sits within the boxy character of Sparky, the Racer’s mechanic well. Sparky’s character swings between goof and pensive reflector and Gurry keeps up with ease. Looking forward to seeing more from this guy!

Matthew Fox – Racer X. Do-do-Do-do-Do-do (meant to sound mysterious…). Hmm… Fox isn’t great. He sits below his fellow actors in Speed Racer, he almost feels like a miscast.

 

WHY SHOULD YOU SEE THIS FILM? 

I could spend a while writing this, coz there are a lot of reasons to make it to the cinema for this one. But I think you should know why, or else you could be disappointed. So I’ll keep it to dot points, shall I? Okay…

– The racing sequences. They really call for the big screen. The effects are great, and if you’re at all keen on looking at different camera angles you’ll love it!

– The acting.

– The wacky editing. Its a bit different, but just enjoy its DIFFERENCE, rather than wishing it was … normal. 

– The narrative of seeing something wrong in the world (an injustice) and using your gifts to fight that wrong. Its a great metaphor. I found it encouraging on that level.

– So you can join my special club of people who get teased for seeing, and liking, Speed Racer. Current membership is 1.

 

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? 

As long as you don’t drag grandma and pa, anyone. Probably especially kids or people who enjoy slightly alternative cinema. The kids will love the colours, the wacky costumes and settings, and the fast cars, even the youngens will get something out of it!

 

ANY BITS? 

No. Unless fast driving freaks you out. Even the kiss is, well, I won’t spoil the surprise. (He he, I like being annoying.) 

 

THIS FILM GETS 4 GOLD STARS – As I said, watch it and enjoy its difference, its what it is, and it does what it does well. If you don’t try and wish this film was something else, you’d give it 4 Gold Stars too. 

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.