Posts Tagged ‘Morgan Freeman’

Digital Illusions

Now You See Me 2

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Director: Jon M. Chu

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Lizzy Caplan, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Daniel Radcliffe, Dave Franco, Sanaa Lathan

Following the success of the 2013 magical film Now You See Me, there was definitely a call to make a sequel and reunite the illusive four horsemen.

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In the sequel, Now You See Me 2, G. I. Joe: Retaliation director Jon M. Chu misses the mark in providing a magical follow up to the original film, despite reuniting the same cast including Jesse Eisenberg as Daniel Atlas, Woody Harrelson as Merritt McKinney who also has a rather irritating identical twin brother in this film, Mark Ruffalo as Dylan Rhodes and Dave Franco as Jack Wilder.

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New to the cast is master illusionist Lula played by Lizzy Caplan famous from the raunchy Masters of Sex TV series and the superfluous Daniel Radcliffe as a reclusive tech billionaire Walter Mabry who recruits the magicians to steal back a ubiquitous yet highly guarded computer chip which can hack into anything at an international exchange in the glamorous resort casinos of Macau.

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As the action moves swiftly from New York to Macau and then onto London, the magical tricks and digital illusions even involving numerous card tricks in which the microchip seemingly passes from one horseman to another, Now You See Me 2 appears to be lacking in the essential element of revelation. Something the first film did so brilliantly. For as the optical illusions, card tricks and magic increases, there is less time to provide valuable explanations to the bewildered if slightly amused audience.

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Veteran actors Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman reprise their roles as Arthur Tressler and Thaddeus Bradley respectively whose unholy alliance leads the Four Horseman to play the ultimate trick on the chief villain, a poorly played part by Daniel Radcliffe, who unfortunately appeared to be out of place in this sequel. Perhaps Radcliffe should stick to stronger script material with meatier roles in mind like he did in Victor Frankenstein and Kill Your Darlings.

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Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight, Foxcatcher) is plausibly believable as the elusive FBI agent Rhodes despite occasionally giving the impression that he should not have signed on for this sequel. Harrelson is in top form playing twins and the only sparks are provided by Eisenberg and Caplan who seem to be the most energetic and enthusiastic magicians.

Whilst Now You See Me 2 falls short of being as brilliant as the first film, it certainly is a fun film to watch even if the plot is slightly convoluted especially in between the globetrotting disappearing acts that the main actors seem to do quite effortlessly. Now You See Me 2 is an enjoyable film, but nothing as magical or dazzling as the original. Lets hope the third film in this magical trilogy is more impressive.

Barbarians at the Gate

London has Fallen

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Director: Babak Najafi

Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Radha Mitchell, Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Patrick Kennedy, Colin Salmon, Charlotte Riley, Robert Forster, Jackie Earle Haley, Robert Forster, Alon Aboutboul, Waleed Zuaiter

Iranian director Babak Najafi follows up the 2013 action film Olympus has Fallen with the more obvious title of London has Fallen.

This time Washington D. C. is the safe zone but London comes under attack by a Pakistani arms dealer Aamir Bakawi who is wreaking havoc on the West for a drone attack which killed his daughter during her wedding back in Pakistan. Bakawi is helped by his vengeful son Kamran played by Waleed Zuiater (The Visitor).

Two years later, after the sudden death of the British prime minister, the entire group of G8 leaders plan on assembling in London for the state funeral at Westminster Abbey.

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No London landmark is safe as the Houses of Parliament, the Abbey, Chelsea Bridge all come under attack but fear not the American president Benjamin Asher played again by Aaron Eckhart is protected by macho bodyguard Mike Banning wonderfully played to form by Gerard Butler, both of whom were in the first film.

This time Banning has more to fight for including getting back to his expectant wife Leah played by Radha Mitchell. As the situation deteriorates in London, and the security forces cannot be trusted as many of whom are employed by the elusive arms dealer, Bakawi who is gleefully watching the destruction of the British capital from a café in Yemen.

Whilst director Najafi does not concentrate on a complex political backstory, his main focus is on delivering a fast paced action thriller filled with brilliant stunts, classic one liners mainly uttered by Gerard Butler, London has Fallen, despite the unlikely plot, is sure to satisfy action fans.

With a great supporting cast including Oscar winner Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby) as the vice-president Trumbull who is directing the presidential extraction from the Washington situation room along with Robert Forster and Jackie Earle Haley, London has Fallen is similar to Olympus has Fallen but lacks originality although is sure to raise more security questions considering how the enemy is portrayed as infiltrated British police officers.

In light of the Paris attacks in November 2015, London has Fallen is gripping but the explosive action does little to actually make the narrative seem more credible. Like the first film, audiences should expect a high body count, a couple of twists and turns and Gerard Butler saving the day.

As the mysterious mole in British intelligence says, the barbarians are at the gates, London has Fallen raises more questions about which city would be under attack next, especially considering the current state of geo-political affairs and more significantly the rapidly growing migrant influx into Western Europe.

London has Fallen is a real action film, short on plot but big on visuals and explosions. Fans of Olympus has Fallen will enjoy this interesting sequel. A third film is sure to follow to make up an explosive trilogy.

 

The Prince of Gotham

Batman Begins

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Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Ken Watanabe, Liam Neeson, Rutger Hauer, Linus Roache

To create a successful trilogy a director has to start with the mythology, the background of a story and the childhood trauma of what moulds a hero. To appreciate the mythology one should always start at the beginning. The Origins of a Superhero.

Having afforded director Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins a second viewing, and being hugely impressed by the two brilliant sequels The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, a retrospective review of the film is in order.

Christian Bale (Empire of the Sun) is superb as Bruce Wayne and in Batman Begins, the origins of the superhero Batman are extensively explored from his falling into a bat cave as a young boy, to his maturity as Billionaire playboy who eventually recaptures his own dynastic inheritance and forges a vigilante alter ego to reclaim the city that he initially abandons.

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Batman Begins reignited the mythology of the League of Shadows, with not one but three villains in the form of Liam Neeson as Decard, Cillian Murphy as Scarecrow and the irrepressibly brilliant Tom Wilkinson as Gotham gangster boss Carmine Falcone.

Nolan’s vision of Gotham is heavily influenced by Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic Blade Runner, even casting Rutger Hauer from Blade Runner in the role of Earle who plans on taking over Wayne Enterprises. What makes Batman Begins so timeless and watchable is the witty repartee between Wayne and his trusted manservant Alfred, wonderfully played by Oscar winner Michael Caine.

The onscreen chemistry between Caine and Bale is the groundwork which makes the two sequels work so wonderfully. The two actors went onto make Nolan’s magical masterpiece The Prestige in 2006 along with Hugh Jackman after the success of Batman Begins.

After all, who is Bruce Wayne, after his parents were brutally murdered?

A Billionaire orphan cared for by his manservant, who transformed into the caped prince of Gotham. A dynamic completely explored in Bruno Heller’s superb TV series Gotham, which evidently was inspired by the Dark Knight Trilogy.

The love interest in Batman Begins is Rachel Dawes played by Katie Holmes although there is no hint of romance more of affection. Holmes holds her own in a male dominated film about the moulding of a superhero. Gay Oldman is reliably good as Detective Gordon, a character also featured in the series Gotham, but it is Liam Neeson who is exceptional as the mysterious Decard who initially encourages the itinerant Bruce Wayne to embrace his fears, little realizing that the instruction comes from his own enemy.

Visually, Batman Begins sets the tone for a gripping and enduring trilogy which only proved more watchable with the release of the stunning Oscar winning sequels. Director Christopher Nolan clearly was the right man for the task of recreating the Gotham mythology judging by the success of this trilogy and also his later films including Inception and Interstellar.

Batman Begins is worth watching again for establishing a mythology and also recreating the origins of a superhero, which although might appear timeless will ultimately be reinvented by DC Comics with the release of the forthcoming Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016.

Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises are indispensable films to own for any cineaste to understand the progression of a blockbuster trilogy and the birth and rebirth of a seemingly immortal superhero. Batman Begins is guaranteed recommended viewing again and again, destined like its superhero to become a cultural classic.

 

 

Lucy loses the Plot

Lucy

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Director: Luc Besson

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Amr Waked

It’s a pity that Luc Besson return to the directorial chair seems to have backfired distinctively even with the able assistance of the ever luminous Scarlett Johansson (Don Jon, Matchpoint, Girl with a Pearl Earring) in the title role of his latest Sci-Fi action thriller Lucy. Lucy’s name comes from the first female Homo Sapien.

The bizarre plot revolves around a particularly sadistic Taiwanese drug ring headed by the sinister Mr Chang played by Min-sik Choi which have roped Lucy and three other unsuspecting drug mules into transporting a super potent mind expanding bright blue drug CPH4 from Taipei into all the major European capitals from Berlin to Paris. Think Neil Burger’s film Limitless on speed.

Whilst Limitless was vaguely plausible, Luc Besson’s Lucy takes the utterly strange sci-fi route which explores the full improbabilities of the premise, that what if humans could use 100% of their brain capacity. If this maximum cerebral capacity occurred, it would deliver contemporary society into a matrix of space and time so devoid of human capability that the effects of such a boost would enable humans to become time travelling virtual computers.

Unfortunately not even Oscar Winner Morgan Freeman as a distinguished neuroscientist Professor Norman could save Lucy both the film and the character from degenerating into a thick mass of black mess. After such superb films as The Fifth Element and Nikita, Luc Besson has clearly lost his touch as a director and should perhaps stick to writing the Taken franchise, as his screenwriting skills have clearly matured whilst his directorial skills have languished considerably.

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Lucy is a short, violent sci-fi heavily stylized action film based on a premise which however visually fascinating soon becomes plainly silly and Besson does not allow much time in the film for any significant character development, that of Lucy’s, Professor Norman or any of the supporting cast. Director Neil Burger’s more honed film Limitless did just that which made it more believable culminating in an elegant thriller launching Bradley Cooper as a much superstar.

The concept of Lucy as an international drug thriller had so much potential, but unlike its title character it does not use its full narrative properly. Besides what were Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman thinking? Clearly the chance to work with French director Luc Besson enticed them into a ridiculous plot which did not use their full potential as brilliant actors. Whilst the Taipei sequence is dazzling, Lucy clearly loses the plot in Paris.

Even the supporting cast including Julian Rhind-Tutt (Rush) as the Limey and Egyptian actor Amr Waked (Syriana, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) as a confused French policeman Pierre Del Rio are both under utilized. Lucy has dazzling special effects and a superb musical score by Eric Serra, but that’s about as much as this thriller has going for it. Lucy can be back up viewing for a lazy Saturday afternoon. Not Recommended.

 

Noble Stags

Last Vegas

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Director: Jon Turteltaub

Stars: Michael Douglas, Robert de Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Michael Ealy, Mary Steenburgen, Roger Bart, Romany Malco, Curtis Jackson, Joanna Gleason, Jerry Ferrara

Four Oscar winners team up for The Hangover with Pensions version aptly titled Last Vegas. Veteran Hollywood stars Michael Douglas (Wall Street, The Game), Robert De Niro (Raging Bull, Meet the Parents), Morgan Freeman (Unforgiven, The Shawshank Redemption) and Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda, The Big Chill) play four friends in the autumn of their lives who reunite 58 years later for a debauched bachelor party in Sin City as one of them prepares to marry a bride half his age in a bid to retain his vanity.

National Treasure Director Jon Turteltaub’s comedy about men in their seventies who rediscover the spunk in them is both hilarious and poignant as Last Vegas charts the character journey of these friends, referred to in 1950’s Brooklyn as the Flatbush Four, when they were kids stealing a bottle of Whisky named Noble Stags from a drugstore.

As the gang reunite 58 years later for an explosive Vegas weekend, it’s the  brilliant scenes between smooth talking Billy played by Douglas and mean looking and grumpy Paddy played by De Niro, that stand out in this comedy. Both these hugely talented actors flesh out their onscreen characters in Last Vegas who share a rivalry and a bitterness dating back to a mutual infatuation with a childhood sweetheart. That rivalry is reignited when they meet has been Vegas Lounge singer Diana wonderfully played by the glamorous Mary Steenburgen (The Proposal, Philadelphia).

In between the rivalry between these two, is Kline’s character Sam who has been given a hallpass by his wife to get laid in Vegas and Freeman’s character Archie who develops a winning streak at the roulette table in an effort to escape his smothering son Ezra played by Michael Ealy.

If the fountains at The Bellagio were for rejuvenating then this film is definitely a mature version of  the hugely successful The Hangover trilogy with ample jokes about prostate, hair transplants and Viagra as the Flatbush four conquer Vegas from poolside Bikini Contests, to roulette to a fabulous Bachelor’s party whose guests include acrobats from Cirque du Soleil, strippers and Drag Queens (look out for a wonderful cameo by TV actor Roger Bart (Revenge, Desperate Housewives) along with Rapper turned actor 50 Cents (Curtis Jackson) of Get Rich or Die Tryin’ fame.

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Last Vegas proves that it’s never too late to have fun especially in Vegas and at the expense of the naive and youthful, embodied in the character of Dean superbly played by Jerry Ferrara of Entourage TV series fame. This is a wonderful and hilarious comedy proving that all these Oscar winners especially Douglas and De Niro are still at the top of their game, helped by the ever talented Freeman and the expressive Kevin Kline.

Recommended viewing for those that enjoy a more mature and poignant comedy, less vulgar than The Hangover, but just as funny. Last Vegas definitely promises a sequel especially with the onscreen chemistry of these four versatile Hollywood stars.

 

 

Taking of the Capitol

Olympus Has Fallen

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Director: Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Aaron Eckhart, Robert Foster, Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser

Whilst it is not about the Greek financial crisis, Olympus Has Fallen, is a gripping, albeit unsubtle hostage drama involving  a vicious attack on the White House by a Korean paramilitary group who is seeking vengeance on America for the Korean War. Featuring Gerard Butler (Machine Gun Preacher, 300) as the original action hero, Mike Banning who is first introduced as a secret service aide to the youngish gung-ho American President Benjamin Asher played by Aaron Eckhart and the gorgeous First Lady briefly played by Ashley Judd at the Presidential retreat at Camp David where on a routine presidential outing a terrible car crash occurs on an icy bridge during a blizzard.

The action swiftly moves 18 months later to the White House and Capitol Hill where the rest of the cast is introduced including Oscar winners Morgan Freeman as the Secretary of State Trumbull and Melissa Leo as the tough Secretary of Defence Ruth McMillan along with Oscar nominees Angela Bassett as Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs and Robert Forster as General Edward Clegg. Director of the Oscar winning film Training Day, Antoine Fugua throws caution to the wind and without much intrigue depicts a full scale assault on the White House by a group of rogue Korean operatives, lead by Kang played by Rick Yune of Die Another Day fame,  who attack a key meeting  between the American and South Korean presidents and literally annihilate half of Washington DC including the famed Washington Monument.

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Fuque as director excels in his trademark bloody action style, and Olympus Has Fallen is no different and whilst the audience will be gripped in the midst of a Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 type hostage crisis, whereby the President is held captive by the villainous Kang with the assistance of some unlikely traitors, as a film it certainly does not leave much to the imagination.

The film’s action and violence is fast and thick which does little for any sense of diplomacy or pay tribute to the more complex political dynamic that America has with the 21st Century Korean peninsula, along with the current intricate relations Washington DC has with both Seoul and Pyongyang, the film only serves to bolster American patriotism at the hands of a foreign enemy invasion.

Whilst the action sequences are brutal and spectacular the remaining characterization in the film lies too thin to make this outlandish plot entirely plausible, although it is gripping entertainment but not nearly as good as Fugua’s all American crime dramas like Brooklyn’s Finest and Shooter. Watch out for particularly good performances by Dylan McDermott as Secret Agent Forbes and Melissa Leo (The Fighter, Frozen River) as the tortured hostage and resilient Washington politician, whilst the rest of the cast including Radha Mitchell as Banning’s wife Leah and Cole Hauser have minimal screen time.

Olympus has Fallen is an intense action thriller with a vaguely political narrative serving to bolster American propaganda, but subtlety is not its strong suit, nor was it meant to be plausible or intriguing, just downright entertaining. Recommended viewing but not in the cinematic league of Enemy of the State, Spy Games or the brilliant Zero Dark Thirty.

Temple of the Infinite Gods

Oblivion

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The undeniable truth about Tom Cruise Sci-Fi movies is that he doesn’t really star in a bad film. Like the success of  the riveting 2002 Steven Spielberg film Minority Report, Oblivion is a glossy 21st century version of 2001 a Space Odyssey with gorgeous cinematography by Claudio Miranda (who won an Oscar for Life of Pi) and a very tantalizingly post-modern narrative involving Jack Harper played by Cruise and his effective team member Victoria played by Andrea Riseborough (W/E) who live in a post apocalyptic earth high above the carnage in a swish pent house resembling Bespin Cloud City from The Empire Strikes Back and whose job in 2077 is to look after huge hydroelectric plants which are converting the earth’s ocean energy to be used towards the future colonization of one of Saturn’s more inhabitable moons as Earth is no longer entirely livable.

Oblivion through some stunning production designs sets up a seemingly post apocalyptic planet in which scavengers have invaded and attacked the moon causing much havoc with the world and the tidal systems, and once where there were cities lies a wasteland. Except that Jack Harper whose memory has been wiped clean of the apocalypse has flashbacks of a meeting with a mysterious woman, Julia subtly underplayed by Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace), at the base of the Empire State Building sixty years earlier back in 2017, pre-apocalyptic New York City. Themes of liberty and the eternal struggle of the human spirit against insurmountable odds is beautifully explored in Oblivion and as the film progresses, one gets the feeling that this is a three act Scientology inspired opera on the Infinity of Space.

As Jack and Victoria report to a distant projected screened image of Sally, their supervisor, played with a Southern drawl by Melissa Leo on the orbiting space station Tet, one gets the sense of something sinister occurring much like the omniscient spaceship computer Hal 9000 in Stanley Kubrick’s groundbreaking 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Without giving away too much of the plot twists, and in Oblivion there are many, Tron Legacy director Joseph Kosinski’s existential version of the Odyssey is superb to watch and whilst the film is evenly paced, the last act of the film, in which many narrative threads are elegantly woven together, Oblivion clearly appears as a cinematic pastiche of all successful Sci-Fi films from the last four decades from Star Wars to The Matrix trilogy to the Mad Max movies.

Not as tightly woven as Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, Oblivion is a gorgeously slick odyssey to the Temple of the Infinite Gods namely in outer space with a huge amount of twists and certainly shows that Cruise at the age of nearly 51 still has what it takes to carry such an inventive and intriguing science fiction cinematic fantasy. Oblivion is worth watching especially for serious Sci-Fi fans! Also stars Morgan Freeman  as the mysterious Beech sporting a huge cigar in a sadly underwritten cameo and Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who plays Sykes also familiar as Jamie Lannister in the hit HBO series Game of Thrones.

77th Academy Awards

77th Academy Awards

27th February 2005

Oscar Winners at the 77th Academy Awards

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Best Picture: Million Dollar Baby

Best Director: Clint EastwoodMillion Dollar Baby

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Best Actor: Jamie Foxx – Ray

Best Actress: Hilary Swank – Million Dollar Baby

Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman – Million Dollar Baby

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Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett – The Aviator

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Best Original Screenplay: Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry and Pierre Bismuth – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor – Sideways

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Best Foreign Language Film: The Sea Inside directed by Alejandro Amenabar (Spain)

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Best Original Score: Jan A. P. Kaczmarek – Finding Neverland

Best Documentary Feature: Born into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids directed by Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski

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Best Cinematography: Robert Richardson – The Aviator

Best Costume Design: Sandy Powell – The Aviator

Best Film Editing – Thelma Schoonmaker – The Aviator

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Best Visual Effects: Spiderman 2 directed by Sam Raimi

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/77th_Academy_Awards

 

 

 

 

A Siege of Elegant Brutality

The Dark Knight Rises

Christian Bale as Batman

As skilled a director as himself assembles some of his cast from the 2010 hit Inception including the brilliant Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Oscar winner Marion Cotillard and the formidable Tom Hardy and gives them starring roles in The Dark Knight Rises along with Oscar nominee Anne Hathaway as the elusive and sleek Catwoman.

In The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan clearly has an opera in mind, a three act narrative of epic proportions about characters regaining their honour, losing the shackles of structured employment and giving heroism a whole new twist. Whilst the late Heath Ledger stole the show in The Dark Knight as the clearly unhinged and psychopathic Joker, it is Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Elegant Brutality as the urban warrior Bane who rises from the depths of Gotham to terrorize the city once more as a fitting yet all together different advisory. While The Dark Knight made use of Chicago’s urban landscape, Nolan firmly roots The Dark Knight Rises in the island of Manhattan a grimy 21st century simulacrum of New York known as Gotham.

Tom Hardy as Bane

The Dark Knight Rises visually is outstanding as all the strands of the narrative splinter in act two and then elegantly reconnect in a way in which each character realizes their true potential in the explosive third act, where Nolan weaves themes of heroism, fear, despair and loyalty into a stunning conclusion whilst all the time shaping the appearance of not one but two new superheroes with a sly nuanced touch hinting at a possible fourth film in this hugely successful reboot of the Batman franchise. The screenplay by Nolan and his brother Jonathan is sharp, articulate and beautifully written if the viewer listens for the wise words between the clashing warlords and not too dazzled by the unbelievable action sequences.

Naturally the teaming of such a brilliant cast from Gary Oldman to a brief cameo by Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins) gives hefty weight to Nolan’s epic vision of a city under siege assisted by a superb script giving each of the main characters (and there is a lot of them) enough opportunities to develop around the myth of Batman and his superhero status. Bruce Wayne himself has to truly dispel all his demons, face his fears and rise out of the pit of popular heroism to become a true pillar of a man not measured by wealth, his tortured past or fame, but by how far his experiences have taken him.

Anne Hathaway as Catwoman

For action fans, this film will not disappoint and whilst the violence is at times seemingly excessive there are moments of clear cinematic pace as only director Christopher Nolan knows how to achieve. Whilst the second act might seem long-winded, it’s the third act which is truly thrilling and if viewers have not seen Batman Begins or The Dark Knight its best to brush up on the fable of Bruce Wayne and his epic transformation as Batman. As for Catwoman and Robin they are truly supportive of Batman’s statue as one of the most iconic superheroes around. Look out for wonderful performances by Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Morgan Freeman and of course Christian Bale, yet it is really Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathaway who rise superbly in this possible final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s dark sophisticated Gothic superhero trilogy about Batman and the League of Shadows.

Anarchy Reigns Supreme

The Dark Knight

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Christopher Nolan follows up his 2005 film Batman Begins with a darker, more sinister and entirely gripping sequel, The Dark Knight. At the end of Batman Begins the Gotham City police chief James Gordon played with great subtlety by Gary Oldman hands Bruce Wayne a calling card for the a new breed of criminal. Wayne, or his alter ego Batman flips over the card and all we see is The Joker, a suggestion that a sequel is definitely in the pipeline. With Christian Bale, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman reprising their roles, who was to be cast as the ultimate villain? The role of the Joker, first made famous by a more jovial and naughty Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s Batman in the late 1980’s was reinvented with a more anarchistic alacrity by the hugely talented Heath Ledger, fresh from his Oscar-nominated role in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain.

So with the casting of the film pretty much sorted only with the slight change of Maggie Gyllenhaal taking on the role of female lead character Rachel Dawes, played in Batman Begins by the pre-Tom Cruise wedded Katie Holmes, all seemed clear sailing. In January 2008 tragedy struck with the unexpected and premature death of Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight’s main draw card, and an eerie and tragic shadow was cast over the release of the film, for it was to become Heath Ledger’s last completed movie and more significantly his final and most intense cinematic impression ever. So when The Dark Knight was released in July simultaneously in cinemas around the globe, the hype was not only about the best sequel ever, it was largely attributed to Ledger’s brilliant and overtly sinister portrayal of Batman’s arch nemesis, The Joker. Ledger deservedly won the Oscar post-humously for Best Supporting Actor for this film, the second actor in cinema history since Peter Finch won for Network.

So naturally, like any avid cineaste, I couldn’t wait to see the final movie. Having followed Christopher Nolan’s previous works from the bizarre Memento to the excellent 2006 film The Prestige

Magic is an illusion and ambition a killer

I knew that The Dark Knight would be in exceptionally talented hands. The Dark Knight, like the trailer suggests, will literally blow any audience viewer away or transfix them to their seat with visuals and cutting edge sound so spectacular it’s hard to realize that two and a half hours have passed. A high-octane and visually spectacular movie with one great action sequence followed by another, punctuated by superb performances not only by Ledger as the Joker, but by Christian Bale, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Aaron Eckhart who takes on the wonderfully ambiguous part of District Attorney Harvey Dent. Gotham is a simulacrum of any large American metropolis, a sinister and shadowy mix of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, where corporate greed fits like a glove with psychotic criminals, ruthless mobsters and a city whose citizens have clearly lost their souls.

For this Joker, a spine-chillingly brilliant and maniacal performance by Heath Ledger, does not have a goal just as long as he is content with wreaking mass destruction, he is purely doing it so anarchy can reign supreme. Prisoners are not an option and nothing is spared as violent and malignant retribution for all the evil that was inflicted on him as a character. The Joker simply is a delusional psychopath with no particular empathy for any moral order or social consequence, let alone a superior and well-meaning hero like Batman, the once brave and fabulously wealthy Bruce Wayne. The Dark Knight is undeniably the best film in ages, for everything is of vastly superior quality from the superb action sequences, senseless and conniving villains, to the exhilarating aerial shots of Gotham and Hong Kong, combined with the elegance of the ultra wealthy urbanized set contrasted by the violent and devious criminals which seek to undermine all that was once sacred. The technical aspects of the film are brilliant from the sound editing, to the slick pace, insures that at  two and a half hours, one is never bored, one is shocked into a state of frenzied captivation, entranced by a film so expansive and devouring, refined and slick, scary and ultimately very intense. Don’t miss this spectacular sequel on the big screen, it is entirely beyond anything one can even comprehend. As for the late Heath Ledger, one really wonders who is having the last laugh.

The Joker?

Ledgers Iconic final performance

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