Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Remembering Aurora, Colorado

Something I didn't address earlier in my Dark Knight Rises review. 
But amidst the summer blockbuster season, tragedy struck in Aurora, Colorado when a lone gunman fired onto unsuspecting cinema goers during the opening of the Dark Knight Rises on 20 July 2012.

12 people died and 58 others were injured.The shooter? A suspect named James Eagen Holmes. 

It's unfortunate that the summer will be now remembered for this tragedy and the movie which is associated with it. It will also perhaps raise questions on laws relating to firearms ownership in the United States (firearms are banned in Malaysia, or so I understand it to be). 

christian bale dark knight rises  christian_bale_visits_aurora_shooting_victims_july_24_2012_1

It's good to hear however that the Christian Bale took the time to visit the victims of the Aurora shooting and the visit was unannounced except that it was tweeted and facebooked :) 

Bale is an excellent lad! And my respect for him grows, not just as a terrific actor but as a terrific person as well. In all the gloom, I'm sure his presence at the hospital would have been uplifting one, not just for the victims of the Aurora shooting, but for the community as well.

Source:- Topless Robot , WWTD

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Dark Knight Truly Rises

It is only natural that I would do a review on the Dark Knight Rises. I mean seriously, this was the movie that I was waiting for ever since Batman rode off into the night in the Dark Knight. Heck I even did a review on it.

Although Avengers being a mega super-hero movie, unprecedented and all that, it was the final installment of Nolan’s Batman which was the movie to look out for.  Hmm, I probably should do an Avengers review, yeah. Perhaps later. 

For now, it’s all about the Dark Knight and how the Dark Knight Rises. If you have seen it, then you will understand or perhaps even empathize what I’m about to write. If you haven’t seen it, please go back to google and search for something more constructive. 

Ok. I really loved the movie. I gotta admit, although the story this time had plenty of holes to fill (perhaps done intentionally), the movie was still in my opinion, EPIC. I admit though, that I preferred the Dark Knight as the story was more seamless compared to this one. So, if anything, the Dark Knight edges the Dark Knight Rises by just a bit. 

This is how my the trilogy rating would work out to be – The Dark Knight (TDR) > The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) > Batman Begins. 

No, no no. Don’t get me wrong. I loved Batman Begins. As an origin story, it was superb and was well done. Just that the latter two ranked a wee bit higher.
Ok. Now on to my review. 

THE STORY (the short of it)

The Story goes that Batman has gone into retirement 8 years after taking the fall for Harvey Dent’s (Two Face) death and now lives like a recluse in his now completely rebuilt Wayne Manor. Only thing is, he is doing a Gollum and remains mysterious to almost everyone including one time crime partner, Commissioner Gordon. And he apparently is suffering from a bad case of weak knees. The Dent Act is introduced to now curb all mob activities and as I understood the inference of its implications, the Act is somewhat draconian (similar to the Patriot Act in the USA and the Internal Security Act In good ol’ Malaysia). Detention without trial. Instead of Arkham Asylum, the prisoners are now detained in some prison. Not Arkham, remember that.

So, the streets are cleaner and mob activity is close to zero. The last time the TDR played out, it was like a mob / cop movie masquerading as a super hero movie. This time round, no Sal Maronis or the Russian or Carmine Falcone wannabes in sight.  Of course, this peace which was built on a lie (Batman’s murder of Dent) was only temporary as darker forces are in play. As the Selina Kyle aka Catwoman aptly points out “A Storm is coming”. The storm comes in the form of Bane. 

If you are familiar with the comic book events of the Knightfall series, Bane was the mastermind terrorist / villain who broke Batman’s back. This was back in 1993 when I first started my foray of collecting comics. So yes, I was expecting for Bane to break the Bat here and he did not disappoint. 

So Bane hatches this plan to help destroy Wayne Enterprises and had begun building and underground army for an all out assault on Gotham. Why? Because of his links with the League of Shadows, as revealed later that he is a disciple of Ra’s Al Ghul. Now even before the movie was out, I saw the link coming and Nolan made it seamless to give Bane a higher purpose and not just be an ordinary James Bond terrorist, hell bent on destroying the world.

Well, besides Bane, Selina Kyle was introduced as a cat burglar stealing the pearl necklace that Martha Wayne wore the night Bruce's parents were gunned down. This leads Bruce to finally go back to his detective roots and starts investigating. Apparently Selina wants Bruce's fingerprints for a more sinister purpose which will eventually leads to Bane's plan of destroying Wayne Enterprises. 

So, then the Commish during one of the investigations was injured by Bane's henchman and hence calls upon this young rookie named John Blake to look for Bruce to seek the Batman's help. Blake goes to see Bruce and confesses that he knew that Bruce and Batman were the same person. How this is so? I don't really know. But I have my views which I will reveal later.

So when Bane finally shows the public his face, this is where Batman re-appears once again. And as one older cop tells his younger colleague "Oh boy, you're in for a show tonight!" And this is how the Bat re-enters the foray and my personal opinion, of all the movies, this has to be his strongest entry ever!! I was excited as hell. 

So, anyway, Bats finally confronts Bane and fights to the death. Or near death in Batman's case cause he hasn't been in the best of shape and sure enough Bane breaks Bruce's back, but not before revealing Bruce's identity to Catwoman, whom had earlier double crossed Batman and put him in this trap. 

So Bane, then places Bruce in this prison he know controls called the Pit, somewhere in Africa or the MIddle East (it is not revealed where this place is). With Bruce terribly injured, Bane tells his plans of destroying Gotham to Bruce and says "When Gotham is in ashes, you have my permission to die". And Bane goes on this onslaught on Gotham, trapping the lot of the Gotham police force in the sewer. Oh yeah, and there is this potential nuclear device which threatens to blow up Gotham within 4-5 months. 

Anyway, Bruce makes new friends at the pit, learns about the value of life and to will to start living, finally recovers from his broken back (this would be the part which is somewhat unbelievable) and manages to climb up the Pit where none had done before except a child (thought to be Bane at first instance). 

He goes back to Gotham to have a final showdown with Bane and also meets the other mastermind behind Gotham's impending doom. And this finally comes to an epic close. :)

Ok. My review on the story. There are many holes which need to be filled as said earlier. However, Nolan ties up the beginning from Batman Begins, uses the events in the Dark Knight to set the finale for this movie. To fully appreciate the whole trilogy, you need to watch or revisit both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight to see the bigger picture. And what a beautiful picture indeed. 


Batman / Bruce Wayne

Like many critics say, this is more a Bruce Wayne movie than Batman movie. Yes it is indeed. It comes full circle. In Batman Begins, it was about Bruce. In the final movie, its back to Bruce. Because Batman is what fuels Bruce and Bruce is what gives the Bat it's physical being. So vice versa. But it starts from Bruce. And here Bruce has given up. Ready to die. So there is no longer real motivation since Rachel died in the Dark Knight. Ok. This kinda pisses me off because as Batman, his motivation was always the rage inside until it consumes him. But anyway, this is how this story is told. Perhaps taking the rap for everything has a psychological toll on him as well. But anyway, the beauty of his character is, he realizes that life is worth living and thus now fights for it. So the story of Bruce is about redemption and rebirth. Bale as always is fantastic. As for Bruce's recovery of the broken back, as what Ra's Al Ghul said, "Training is nothing, Will is everything!" (Batman Begins, 2005)

Alfred Pennyworth 

Always the steady butler, but even as stead as he comes, he still cares for Bruce. As he has been the guardian of his welfare since the death of his parents. Like a surrogate father. And Michael Caine doesn't disappoint. This time, there are some teary exchanges between both "father" and "son".

Commissioner Gordon

He carries the guilt of living the lie. And in the end, he buckles to the pressure and finally admits that the Bat is needed once more when things get tough and awry. Definitive scene, the hospital scene when he grabs Bruce by the hand and pleads for Batman to return to face the rising evil. 
Gary Oldman as versatile as he is delivers a good performance as the Commish though in this movie, he is more of a fringe player as compared to the earlier ones. 

John Blake

Now who is this guy you may ask? Well, his first name is Robin. :) Get the picture? So the fact that he knew who Bruce was in the beginning clearly show some semblance that he is based on the Tim Drake Robin. And for his brashness, perhaps the Jason Todd Robin. And taking over from Batman in the end, the Dick Grayson Robin who eventually becomes Nightwing and then becomes Batman :). So he is the beacon of hope that Bruce needs to hand down the mantle to. Will Nolan do a movie on this new Batman / Robin? I doubt it. But it serves as a perfect closure for this Batman series knowing that the legacy continues. Joseph Gordon Levitt shows that he is capable of taking on big roles as last seen in Nolan's inception and his role in this movie is rather a meaty one.


Another Inception alumni. Tom Hardy. Its a pity his face is behind the mask almost 99% of the movie. But as one critic reviewed, even with only 20% of his face shown he can do so much more than the crop of actors around. As Bane, he was menacing. He was deadly. He was a wrestler from hell but with the mind of a strategist. And, don't ever, ever compare with him with that piece of crap from Batman and Robin. This Bane is a cold blooded killer and mastermind. Although i gotta admit he may not be as charismatic as Heath Ledger's Joker. But Bane's villain was one which Batman could not defeat and probably never will. 

Selina Kyle / Catwoman

Now many early critics have scorned the thought of Anne Hathaway playing Catwoman for she is far too sweet and perhaps nubile to play the Cat. I'm glad Anne Hathaway prover her detractors wrong! She kicked ass! She held her own and was there to rescue Bats when the time needed of her to. Of course, she also betrayed him earlier on, but Bruce reckons that she is capable of bigger things and hence offers her redemption. A lesson on grace perhaps? :) Ahaha. Anyway, Selina Kyle here is very much different. Never the victim but never the villain as well, and like other comic incarnations have always been shifty. Her character here kinda reminds me of the Catwoman in the Hush story-arc. So Anne definitely has my vote as the best catwoman ever. There is even a scene where the Cat does a ninja on the Bat leaving the Bat to say "So....That's how it feels like". It had me laughing silly.

Lucius Fox

I thought he had resigned from the events of the Dark Knight. Apparently he didn't. And is still the CEO for Wayne Enterprises. Morgan Freeman plays Lucius effortlessly. I beamed with the introduction of the Bat. Batman's new toy. Not as sleek as the Batwing, but in Nolan-verse, this seems to be the closest thing you can get to a functional Plane-copter-machine. 
Miranda Tate/Talia Al Ghul

I admit. I didn't see that one coming. Though I though that a love interest for Bruce Wayne (with the introduction of Catwoman) was pretty....err...unnecessary.  Of course I see the plot much later on. With Ra's Al Ghul or at least the idea of it and the League of Shadows, it was only a matter of time before Talia Al Ghul showed up. Just in case you wonder, Talia Al Ghul is Ra's daughter and also the lover of Bruce and mother of his child, Damien Wayne. Marion Cottilard serves as eye candy although I had a friend who mistaken her as Rachel Weisz. Too bad her character wasn't expanded.


Let's face it, the entire Dark Knight trilogy was told in cryptic symbols and many scenes were symbolic, at least to me.

For the the TDKR, here are a few;

Climbing out of the pit, which shows Bruce's will to continue living and to live to fight another day, rather than give up.

The fact that for once, Batman fights in daylight, perhaps to show Gotham that he will no longer be in the shadows and to show Gotham its true self. Or maybe the bomb just couldn't wait till night to blow up haha.

Alfred's fantasy of Florence and the final scene. Alfred's fantasy was explained in the beginning of the movie, that Bruce would one day live a normal live with a loved one. The significance of it was played out in the ending. Some people say it's a dream like in Inception. However, have another viewing and the dream conclusion would definitely seemed less probable.

The idea of mortality here is a very real and grim one. If you think super heroes only die extravagant deaths, then this is a movie which clearly shows that one bad judgment call could lead to death. Such as the fight with Bane when clearly Bruce is not physically ready. Although, I would definitely prefer the Knightfall story arc of how Bruce was weaken by Bane's plan and Bane capitalized on a weakened Bruce. Here Bruce is definitely no match for Bane's physique and strength and played the underdog.

The final showdown between the cops and the terrorists. The daylight and final battle showed that anyone, even ordinary folk can rise to be heroes. And so is the converse where the ordinary folk too can be villains if guided wrongly. This is really relevant in today's world where extreme elements are introduced to tilt the balance between right and wrong / good and evil.
So it's not just the Bat who rose, but the people of Gotham who rose to fight evil as well. 

Those are the few that I can think off right now. I may add in more when I do get round to figure it out.

Best quotes of the movie

Bane: Using darkness as your ally?I was born in it...molded by it. I didnt see the light until I was already a man. By then it was nothing to me but blinding!! The shadows betray you because they belong to me!

Selina Kyle: You don't owe these people anymore, You've given them everything
Batman: Not everything, Not yet.

Batman: A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a little boy's shoulder to let him know that the world hadn't ended.


I was happy to see many cameos such as those of Ra's Al Ghul and Johnathan Crane aka the Scarecrow! Thought i would be able to see the Joker too but it was a decent move to not mention that character in honour of Heath Ledger. 

The Dark Knight Rises played out like a comic book movie. One that tries to ground itself on reality and sometimes, it doesn't fully succeed on the grounding. As compared to the Dark Knight, the Dark Knight was more of a crime caper where Batman battled the mob and the Joker got in the way. In the Dark Knight Rises, Gotham is even in a bleaker state and so is Bruce. But it played out to be a bleak, dark and wonderful symphony in the end. 

Of course it also raises questions:- Why didn't Bruce use the rope to pull himself out of the pit to escape instead of using the path of the broken ledge? (Some say that the rope was only half way, which probably made sense since we can't really tell from the camera angles if the rope reaches all the way to the top). Also, how was Bruce healed from a broken back? (Unless the doctor has some secrets, it would probably take years to recover) Then again, as Ra's pointed out, "Will is everything". 

But I'm happy and fine with the ending and I thought i was a good closure. To kill of Batman but let Bruce live his life normally. Something that the comic Batman will never have the luxury of as he will be a perpetual Dark Knight to Gotham. 

As much as many have said that this movie was really long, being 2 hours and 45 mins, I felt that they had to rush it even and so many parts were left hanging hence my earlier questions. And perhaps like any other Nolan movie, they always manage to spark discussions on issues pertaining to it. Inception is one. And here's where Nolan succeeds as a filmmaker :) To raise questions and allow it's audience to come to its conclusion. Some say that Bruce never survived even,. I take the view that he did as it seems more plausible :) 

Even the soundtrack seemed to grow from strength to strength. I have the opportunity of listening all three movie soundtracks and this one is really the more epic of the lot. The chants of 'Rise" will raise goosebumps for anyone listening to it. 

So, ends the Dark Knight trilogy as it manages to reboot the entire Batman series, making a force to be reckon with and has created a phenomenon. 

The Dark Knight Rises - truly epic and marvelous. Until the next Batman, which I hope won't come until 20 years later, we shall once again revisit the Bat. For now, I'm planning to watch it the second, third, fourth  - 15th time :) And with a heavy heart, I shall now say goodbye to the Nolan Dark Knight trilogy.

"Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up."

Enjoy the trailer below :) My fav amongst the other trailers

Monday, July 9, 2012

Great Power, Great Responsibility

"With great  power, comes great responsibility"

The Amazing Spider-man will do like what Batman Begins did for the Batman franchise. An edgier, grittier and perhaps even funnier Spider-man than the Sam Raimi version of things.

Unlike Batman Begins, where the reboot was wholly necessary to fix the order of things (the atrocities of Batman and Robin still linger in the thoughts of many) to bring life back into an already tainted depiction of the Dark Knight, the Amazing Spider-man seemed wholly unnecessary.

Why was it unnecessary? Because Raimi’s vision of Spidey was excellent, except that Spider-man 3 suffered from the greater expectations after Spider-man 2 and also , the villain casting in Spider-man 3 was left wanting. Otherwise, Raimi had it spot on! Tobey Maguire as the mild mannered Peter Parker and aloof at times. Being a spidey fan (and Batman fan as well) for most of my kid life and teenage life and college life even, I thought Spider-man defined comic movies!

So, So, I went to watch The Amazing Spider-man with low expectations, thinking that this formula is nothing new to me anymore. And I came out….wanting even more!

And here’s my assessment on it:-

The movie’s pacing was, to some people, slow, but I thought it was necessary to lay the foundations for the main character, Peter Parker and the more important supporting characters, Gwen Stacy, Uncle Ben and Aunt May.
Like Raimi’s version, he took an hour to introduce the characters and how Spidey came to be, before he finally dons that spandex suit and started swinging around.
This version did the same. Only this time, Parker is still a teenager, still in high school, more angsty (teenagers!) and is awkward. I believe this version takes it’s liberties from the Ultimate Spider-man franchise instead.

I have read some Ultimate Spider-man books but I wasn’t too interested in this continuity, where Parker was still a teenager. I guess I’d prefer the classic continuity instead. But anyway back to this post…..


Which brings me to the casting – Andrew Garfield is an excellent Spider-man and perhaps in my opinion better than Tobey Maguire. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Tobey Maguire version. It’s just that Andrew Garfield edges it a little. He is edgy as Peter Parker, who is always a conflicted character and has seen more share of tragedy than any other superhero in the Marvel universe but light hearted as Spider-man with his smart aleck sarcasm and quips! Just the way I’ve always wanted Spider-man to be. Like Deadpool, always saying something sarcastic. Tobey’s Spider-man just didn’t had that. Heck, he even carries a bagpack and a cell phone like a kid!

Emma Stone, has been one of my favourite actresses this generation. More so cause she was in comedies like Easy A and Superbad (One of the best comedies of all time). So, I like her spunk and her penchant for comedy. So casting her as Gwen Stacy merely enforces that. Gwen Stacy is a strong character here and is not a damsel in distress. Very much different from the Mary Jane from the last trilogy (somehow, I’ve always thought Kristen Dunst was miscast).
Sad to say, I'm quite sure Gwen Stacy will die in the next movie, if the Green Goblin has anything to do with it. She is a good character but a doomed one unfortunately. That's tragic.

Uncle Ben and Aunt May (Martin Sheen and Sally Field) – now here you have Award winning peeps taking on these roles and they do not disappoint. Uncle Ben comes across as a caring father-figure and doer of what is morally right whilst Aunt May is no longer the aloof aunt but the caring mother-figure to Peter’s conflicted character. They both come off across as people who have  been in our lives.

Rhys Irfan played Dr Curt Connors really well. Though some people may not be able to see the angle of his character, whether he has some good or is truly bad, but one thing, for sure, he is not a one dimensional character. But he is shady and his motives may left one to wonder. As for the Lizard, I was a little disappointed that he did not fit the description I envisioned. He didn’t have that classic lizard snout and comes across as a scaly faced man with a huge body and tail. I thought this character could have expanded a little bit more. I guess it’s difficult to compete with the likes and charisma of Willem Defoe (the Green Goblin) and Alfred Molina (Doc Octopus) who till this day remain as the bests villains in Spidey history.

As for Captain Stacy, played by Dennis Leary (from the Ice Age series), his character could have been explored a little more. But I suppose he had to die anyway.

The movie

Now, I’m not going to spoil the story too much for anyone who hasn’t seen it. But here’s my review of it. The story would provide a good introduction story to a whole new franchise. As I have said earlier, it is a darker story and the bigger scheme of things in this would be Peter’s parents, who they are, what happened to them, and Oscorp would have a larger role to play in all the movies this time round.
The characters of Norman and Harry Osborne are not yet introduced, but in due time I presume.

So there we start off with Peter as a kid. His parents leaving him because they have a higher duty to attend to, or perhaps escape even, and thus he is left to live with Uncle Ben and Aunt May. He grows up as an awkward kid and as always Flash Thompson will be there to be his tormentor. He then finds out a secret that his parents’ had hidden (perhaps meant for him to discover when he has come of age) which ultimately leads him to Dr Connors who is working on a miracle of regeneration. Stem cell research? Hardly. This is an entirely new method and Peter has the equation.

Peter gets bitten and suddenly he is endowed with all these powers, climbing walls and being super agile. Now, he doesn’t have his webs yet, and that’s where it gets interesting. Like the comics, he builts his own web shooters and so that’s something I liked. 

Tragic would soon befall him as Uncle Ben dies due to his negligence and arrogance. Once again, I was touched and emotions stirred during the death of Uncle Ben. And Andrew Garfield made it even more so.

And finally he learns that “with great power comes great responsibility”, though the words are not uttered, the idea and principle remains throughout the movie.

So, Dr Connors finally develops the serum to regenerate with Peter’s help but is reluctant to test it on patients when asked to do so. Upon being told that the serum will be tested on the patients anyway, he decides then to test it on himself first. It works, hand regenerates but the becomes a lizard instead. And this is when all hell breaks loose, and hence, go watch the movie to find out J

Just a summary.

But more importantly, I felt that this movie was written really well. I couldn’t find that many holes in the plot and the execution is well. Even the action sequences were more believable, perhaps thanks to recent technology and so forth.

What I loved about this movie is that not only is Parker more relatable to us in real life, the other characters too are people you see in life everyday. Even Spider-man is vulnerable and flawed. And the dynamics of how that worked out well would be the key to why this film is good, if not great.
Sure it doesn’t hit the high of Spider-man 2, but with Marc Webb, I won’t hold back on that. This film had potential to build up to greater things.

Most definitive and emotional scene :- handing the overdue eggs to Aunt May after a hard day’s work.

In conclusion, whilst I love the first franchise, I think this Spider-man presents itself as a more relatable and realistic Spider-man. And hence, Andrew Garfield’s portrayal tops Tobey Maguire’s, not by a mile but a slight edge. And because of that, I can’t wait for the next installment.

With the Avengers gone and Spider-man done with, will the Dark Knight Rise to challenge the box office as the comic-book event of the year? 2 weeks from now.

But until then, the Amazing Spider-man has appease this fan-boy. With much pleasure. Thank you Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield. Thank you.