Sunday, 29 July 2012

The week in brief (23 - 29 July)

Another fairly quiet week - what with the start of the Olympics, and finishing off the second season of Veronica Mars, I didn't have too much time to spend watching films. I did finally get round to seeing The Dark Knight Rises, however. I reckon pretty much everyone on the internet has had their say about TDKR, but for what it's worth, my two-penneth worth is coming right up.

This week's list of movies watched:

The Dark Knight Rises (2012): 8/10
Robocop (1987): 7/10
1408 (2007): 8/10
Once Upon A Time in the West (1968): 7/10

So then, The Dark Knight Rises. This was a film I'd been looking forward to seeing for over a year, so to a certain extent, in giving the film an '8' (rather than a '9' or '10') out of 10, I have to admit that it didn't quite live up to all the hype surrounding it. Saying that, I don't want to give off the impression that I didn't enjoy the movie - there's a lot to love about TDKR. It's a fantastic spectacle, with the director's preference for real stunts over CGI paying dividends in some stunning action sequences. It's beautifully shot by Wally Pfister, in his last movie as director of photography for Chris Nolan, and you really get the sense of Gotham as a real, living, breathing American city. With one exception, I really enjoyed the work of the ensemble cast - particularly Joseph Gordon Levitt as intrepid cop John Blake and Anne Hathaway, who comes very close to matching Michelle Pfeiffer's iconic performance as Catwoman/ Selina Kyle. One other very pleasant surprise was something which had been talked up as a potential problem for the picture - the voice of supervillain Bane, which I had heard was pretty much impossible to understand. On watching TDKR, I didn't find that to be the case at all - instead, I came away hugely impressed with Tom Hardy's work. He's created a voice for Bane which is a creepy, arrogant, highly intelligent drawl which acts as an interesting contrast to the hulking physicality of the character's physical appearance. For this reason, I found that pretty much any scene featuring Bane was guaranteed to be interesting. Of course, the film is not without its faults. It's a little over long, with a sequence in the middle (which sees Batman banished to a Russian prison) which seems to go interminably. I felt that Marion Cotillard's performance as Miranda Tate (Bruce Wayne's love interest) was a little muted, with little chemistry between her and Christian Bale, and the plot doesn't feel as cohesive as the previous two films in the trilogy, with quite a few loose ends. Having said all that, if I was to rank the three Nolan Batman films against one another, I'd put TDKR about on a par with Batman Begins, but in my opinion, it's not quite as great as The Dark Knight.

Moving on to a quick round up of the other films I've seen this week, the best of the bunch was 1408, a recent horror movie adapted from a Stephen King short story. It's a pretty standard set up: we see a cynical writer of 'haunted hotels' travel guides (John Cusack) checking into a hotel room with a notoriously bloody past. No sooner than he can say 'there's no such thing as ghosts', he's attacked by an onslaught of bizarre apparitions, which represent both previous occupants of the room as well as figures from his own guilty subconscious.  While the film is never quite as terrifying as Room 237 in the Overlook Hotel, it's a very solid effort by director Mikael Hafstrom.

The final two movies of the week would fall under the 'good, but not great' category.  Robocop was, I believe, the first '18' certificate film I ever saw, so it will always have a special place in my heart. Watching it again today, the action sequences and special effects look a little dated, but the humourous and satirical touches from director Paul Verhoeven mean that it's still worth a look. Finally, in watching Once Upon A Time in the West I moved one step closer to my goal of having seen every film on the IMDB top 50. All that's left is a couple of Charlie Chaplin films (City Lights and Modern Times) and the Japanese animation, Spirited Away. I have to confess that I'm not a huge fan of epics, Westerns or epic Westerns, but on balance, I quite enjoyed Once Upon A Time in the West. Although it was a little slow for my tastes, there were a few memorable gunfights in amongst the lengthy, meditative shots of the arid Western landscape.

Kirk's Quote of the Week

Ed Wood (1994)

"Edward D. Wood, Jr.: What are you drinking, Bela?
Bela Lugosi: Formaldehyde.
Edward D. Wood, Jr.: Straight up or on the rocks?"

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