The Dark Knight Rises
Rated PG-13 for sensuality, profanity and intense violence.
Batman Emerges From Exile To Battle Terrorist In Trilogy Finale
The Dark Knight Rises brings down the curtain on the brilliant Batman trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader. Each of the earlier episodes, Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008), earned a spot on this critic’s annual Top Ten List, landing at numbers nine and one, respectively.
Given how the late Heath Ledger played The Joker to perfection, delivering an inspired, Oscar-winning, career performance in the previous installment, you knew it would be hard for Nolan to find as compelling a character for his highly-anticipated finale. And if The Dark Knight Rises does have a weakness, it lies in the fact that its primary villain pales in comparison. Otherwise, the movie measures up to franchise expectations, though its convoluted plot and roughly three-hour running time is likely to have younger kids squirming in their seats.
The picture’s point of departure is eight years after the end of the last adventure, when Batman selflessly accepted the blame for the untimely demise of District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). The broken, embittered vigilante has apparently kept a low profile over the intervening years, allowing the Gotham Police Department to fight crime on its own.
But that’s only until the arrival in town of Bane (Tom Hardy), a card-carrying member of the association of assassins known as The League Of Shadows. Although his speech is pretty much muffled by a Hannibal Lecter-like contraption affixed to his face, you don’t need to understand his unintelligible mumblings to know that he’s a maniacal menace. The masked terrorist is hell-bent on blowing up the city with a nuclear device and, of course, it isn’t long before Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) needs help handling the mayhem.
Meanwhile, Batman’s alter-ego Bruce Wayne already has his hands full with Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a cat burglar he catches snooping around his mansion. Fortunately, Wayne still has loyal assistants in his butler Alfred (Michael Caine) and weapons/vehicle/gadgetry specialist Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). Plus, he forges a new friendship with John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an idealist cop with excellent instincts who might be sidekick Robin should the series be spun off.
Outfitted with a state-of-the-art motorcycle and hovercraft, a revivified Batman engages his evil adversary with an unbridled enthusiasm. And between purist Nolan’s loyalty to 35mm film and live action stunts, what’s served up onscreen proves to be nothing short of spectacular.
A tip of the cap—or should I say of the cape—to a terrific trilogy for the ages!
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 165 minutes
Cautionary Exposé Warns Of Detroit’s Impending Demise
Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady are a couple of inspired filmmakers who have kept their finger on the pulse since founding Loki Films a decade ago. Among the frequent collaborators’ timely offerings are such critically-acclaimed documentaries as Oscar-nominated Jesus Camp (2006), the NAACP Image Award-winning The Boys Of Baraka (2005) and the Peabody Award-winning 12th & Delaware (2010).
The talented pair’s latest tour de force is Detropia, a pessimistic exposé chronicling the blight which has permeated Detroit, an enveloping decay heralding the perhaps impending demise of a once prestigious metropolis. Whether a cautionary tale or already a post mortem, the picture is most reminiscent of Michael Moore’s Roger & Me (1989).
However, instead of searching for a missing, Michigan auto industry executive responsible for outsourcing, Ewing & Grady simply sought to preserve for posterity stark images of a ghost town resulting from callous, corporate cost-cutting measures. Detropia carefully constructs an impressionistic cinematic collage of a disturbing dystopia, alternating back and forth between arresting tableaus of an aging, urban exoskeleton and the plaintive laments of citizens swept up in a desperate struggling for survival.
For instance, we learn that so many manufacturing jobs have been downsized that half of Detroit’s population has disappeared into thin air. Consequently, it is easy to find entire city blocks virtually abandoned, where only a handful of homes remain occupied.
Exasperated Mayor Dave Bing, a former NBA star with the Detroit Pistons, freely acknowledges that he has 40 square miles of vacant land on his hands. And equally-frustrated George McGregor, President of a United Auto Workers Local 22, finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place trying to negotiate with a multinational company more than willing to relocate union jobs to Mexico.
Still, not all have lost hope in the midst of the misery. Consider the pranksters who altered the sign above a shuttered “AUTO PARTS” store to read “UTOPIA.” Then there are the picketing, performance artists dressed like decadent one percenters who satirize the rich by demanding money of perturbed passersby.
A simultaneously surrealistic and sobering warning that the Motor City’s host of woes might be coming soon to a town near you.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 90 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening July 27, 2012
Step Up Revolution (PG-13 for profanity and sensuality). Fourth installment in the hip-hop, street dance series, set in Miami, which revolves around the classically-trained daughter (Kathryn McCormick) of a wealthy businessman (Peter Gallagher) who falls in love with a flash mob choreographer (Ryan Guzman) trying to save his hood from a developer’s wrecking ball. With Adam Sevani, Stephen Boss and Chadd Smith.
The Watch (R for violence, graphic sexuality and pervasive profanity). Sci-fi comedy about members of a neighborhood crime watch (Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade) who get more than they bargained for when they find themselves having to defend the planet from an alien invasion. With Rosemarie DeWitt, Will Forte and R. Lee Ermey.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (R for profanity). Bamboo Curtain biopic about Beijing contemporary artist/political activist Ai Weiwei, a controversial democracy and human rights advocate who has been censored for publicly criticizing the Chinese government. Includes appearances by Danging Chen, Ying Gao and Changwei Gu. (In English and Mandarin with subtitles)
Big Boys Gone Bananas (Unrated). Free speech documentary about the legal battle mounted by the Dole Corporation to prevent a pair of filmmakers from airing an exposé they made about the company’s poisoning of Nicaraguan farm workers. With Alex Rivera, Alfonso Allende, Arvid Jurjaks and Bernt Hermele. (In English and Swedish with subtitles)
Falling Overnight (Unrated). Bittersweet love story about a 22-year-old cancer patient (Parker Croft) who shares a one-night stand with a pretty photographer (Emilia Zoryan) the day before he’s scheduled for brain surgery. Cast includes Jake Olson, Elizabeth Levin and Bubba Ganter.
Killer Joe (NC-17 for nudity, brutality, graphic sexuality and disturbing violence). Oscar-winner William Friedkin (for The French Connection) directs this screen adaptation of Tracy Letts’ play of the same name about a cash-strapped gambler (Emile Hirsch) indebted to the mob who hires a cop (Matthew McConaughey) to murder his mother for her life insurance. With Gina Gershon, Juno Temple and Thomas Haden Church.
Klown (R for profanity, drug use, frontal nudity and graphic sexuality). Unlikely buddy comedy about a daddy-to-be (Frank Hvam) who takes his pregnant fiancee’s (Mia Lyhne) 12-year-old nephew (Marcuz Jess Petersen) on a wild canoe trip to prove himself ready for fatherhood. Featuring Casper Christensen, Mads Lisby and Tina Bilsbo. (In Danish with subtitles)
The Lion Of Judah (PG for mature themes). Faith-based animated adventure about the attempt of a brave lamb (Georgina Cordova) along with his stable mates to avoid the sacrificial altar at Easter time. Voice cast includes Michael Madsen (Virginia’s brother), Scott Eastwood (Clint’s son), Omar Benson Miller and the late Ernest Borgnine.
Planet Of Snail (Unrated). Endearing documentary chronicling the day-to-day struggle to survive of deaf and blind Young-Chan and his wife, Soon-ho, who suffers from a debilitating spinal disease. (In Korean with subtitles)
Rites Of Spring (Unrated). Payback horror flick about a gang of kidnappers whose plan to kidnap the daughter of a wealthy businessman goes horribly wrong when they have the tables turned on them by a relentless killing machine. Principal cast includes AJ Bowen, Anessa Ramsey, Marco St. John and Hannah Bryan.
Ruby Sparks (R for profanity, sexual references and drug use). Mind-over-matter romantic comedy about a lonely novelist with writer’s block (Paul Dano) who magically materializes the perfect mate for himself by willing one of his character (Zoe Kazan) to life. With Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, Elliott Gould and Steve Coogan. (In English and French with subtitles)
Sacrifice (Unrated). Screen adaptation of the play “The Orphan Of Zhao,” a historical drama, set in ancient China, about the sole survivor (Zhao Wenhau) of a massacre who is raised like a son by an embittered doctor (Ge You) and trained to avenge the murder of their entire clan. With Xueqi Wang, Bingbing Fan and Xiaoming Huang. (In Mandarin with subtitles)
Searching For Sugar Man (Unrated). Flash in the pan documentary about a couple of diehard fans from South Africa who embark on a search for the whereabouts of Sixto Rodriquez, a one-hit wonder from Detroit remembered for the 1967 single, “I’ll Slip Away.”