Friday, August 3, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

**Just a quick note, this is a review of The Dark Knight Rises but I am also calling this an extended review.  I will also include reviews and comparisons of the other two movies in Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy and also comparisons with the Batman movies of the 1990's.  In other words, it will be long.**


"In the tradition of Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, a monumental blockbuster that could very well be nominated and win the Best Picture Academy Award."

Bear with me for a moment while I travel back in time a bit.  It's 1989 and Tim Burton has directed one of the most anticipated movies ever, an audacious version of the campy television series.  It was dark and ominous, yet had it's share of comedy.  The film had a powerful cast with Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight, Jack Nicholson at his deviant best as the Joker, Kim Basinger, Billy Dee Williams, Jack Palance, and Jerry Hall. I owned the VHS version and one of the critics quotes on the box read, "The movie of the decade." It was, it really was.  Then, in 1992, a sequel emerged called Batman Returns also directed by Burton and starring Keaton as Batman.  This movie also starred Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito as Catwoman and Penguin respectively. These two gave award worthy performances and in my humble opinion, this movie, which was even darker and more ominous than the first, was just as enjoyable as the one from 1989.  Any movie portraying a character called Batman has to be a dark movie, that's just movie law.  That is why the next two movies (well, one of many, many reasons why) are so damn ridiculous.  Batman Forever (1995) and especially Batman and Robin (1997) were such utter disappointments that I feel I have devoted too much writing space to them as it is.

That brings me to the 21st century.  In 2005, Batman Begins was released.  Directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento, Inception), this new version was to go back to the Caped Crusader's roots, way way back.  People and critics rolled their eyes (yes, including me) at another Batman movie after the last two disasters.  Batman Begins turned out to actually be a very awesome movie.  It was so dark, it was almost like a horror flick, like it always should have been.  I often called it an action horror.  As was the same with its sequel, The Dark Knight, which by the way is the 3rd highest grossing movie of all time.  The movies not only got back to the roots of the story, it gets back to the roots of an actual action movie, with real explosions and actual dialogue.  They are not polluted with fake green screen cinematography, and if they are, they do a damn fine job of hiding it.  Also, as far as The Dark Knight is concerned, it is easy to mention the Oscar winning performance from the late Heath Ledger, one of the finest performances of all time.

When the The Dark Knight Rises was released on July 20, 2012, it marked one of the rare times when the final movie in a trilogy out shined the original two.  This is an epic conclusion to a movie trilogy that has rocked movie theaters all over the world.  The story begins 8 years after The Dark Knight ended where Batman is blamed for the death of Harvey Dent, Bruce Wayne has been in hiding, and Gotham City's crime rate has dropped dramatically.  Of course, it being Gotham City, that cannot last very long when a new menace called Bane (played with titanic levels of awesome by Tom Hardy) shows up and wreaks havoc unlike the city has ever seen.

There are some supreme supporting players this go around. Michael Caine (in a powerful Oscar worthy performance) is back as right hand man Alfred Pennyworth.  Gary Oldman of course in his perfectly casted role of Commissioner Gordon.  Morgan Freeman, entertaining as always, continues as Lucius Fox, Batman's version of James Bond's Q.  Among the newcomers are Joseph Gordon-Levitt who portrays rookie cop Blake helping out through all of the before mentioned havoc.  A rousing addition if I do say so myself. Then, there is Marion Cotillard as love interest Miranda Tate.  I have to say that is was quite the refreshing change out of all the freaking Batman movies, having a love interest that can act and is not some anorexic no-talent who looks like she is 16 (not naming any names).  Finally, there is Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle.  Michelle Pfeiffer played the part in 1992 and for 20 years, as far as I was concerned, there was only one Catwoman.  She conquered the character and made the men of the movie her bitch.  Anne Hathaway's performance was very reminiscent, however I do not believe in spoilers, so I am not going pinpoint every little different detail because that will give away important plot points.  Hathaway almost channels Pfeiffer through most of the movie with her dark, brooding 'screw the world' attitude.  It's really hard to determine who I like better because their characters are different.  But I can tell you, Hathaway threw out the good girl and stomped on her ass for this role, which she rocked.  Tom Hardy's Bane will go down in movie history as an iconic cinematic villain.

The Dark Knight Rises ended a great American movie trilogy.  Christian Bale did the movie audience a solid as Bruce Wayne/Batman.  I found him a perfect fit for the Bat suit.  The casting people found a man who was in the perfect age range with a solid physique who could handle all the physical aspects of the role, and had perfect emotional timing, when to be dramatic and when to be funny.  The writing and storyline was hardcore, never let up on dramatic build up.  The great thing about the special effects is they never looked like special effects, the action always looked real, without all the stylized crap.  So, until the next remake, it is very safe to say that The Dark Knight Rises rose past the point of superior and will be an iconic cinematic achievement for decades to come.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Entertainer Profile - Charlize Theron

Welcome to the 1st of many Entertainer Profiles from the Critic of Southeast Texas.  These blogs are going to profile a certain actor (kind of an Entertainer of the Month type of situation) plus I will be reviewing their roles in some of their past roles. I will focus on movies and/or television projects past and present. Also, my favorite roles and go back in time with how he/she grew up and throw in some interesting trivia on that person that you may have never known. 

So, lets get to it.  My Entertainer of the Month for July 2012 is........


It is no secret at all that Charlize Theron is an incomparable beauty, hailed at times as one of the most beautiful faces ever to grace the silver screen.  I certainly do agree.  However, this is a review of her incomparable talent, and this beauty is loaded with massive amounts of acting talent. This Oscar winning actress has built an impressive and very versatile resume over the past 16 years.  She stars in two of the most anticipated movies of the summer, Prometheus and Snow White and the Huntsman.  Her roles are generally on the darker side and these two movies are no exception.  Her portrayals of Meredith Vickers (Prometheus) and Ravenna (Snow White and the Huntsman) were evil at its best.

Her first role was in 1996 in a film called Two Days in the Valley. It was not a commercially successful movie but her portrayal of Helga Svelgen opened eyes in Hollywood.  I actually enjoyed the movie. It follows a eccentric group of characters over a two day period in Los Angeles and also has one of the best onscreen catfights ever, between Theron and Teri Hatcher.

At first glance, you would think she'd be the face of the romantic comedy world but she has chosen more dramatic, serious roles.  Honestly though, it doesn't matter the role for the talented Theron, she charges in and owns the character she is portraying (for example, Aileen in Monster).

Charlize was born near Johannesburg, South Africa and became a ballet dancer in her early teenage years and after a knee injury, started modeling at 18 then made her way to Los Angeles to embark on a movie career.  It wasn't long before an agent gave her a business card, then the juggernaut that was and still is an awesome career began.  A couple of things you may not know about her, she turned down Kate Beckinsale's role in Pearl Harbor and auditioned for Elizabeth Berkeley's role in Showgirls.

The Devil's Advocate (1997)

Mighty Joe Young (1998)
The Astronaut's Wife (1999)
The Cider House Rules (1999)
The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
Sweet November (2001)
Trapped (2002)
The Italian Job (2003)
Monster (2003) - won the coveted Best Actress Academy Award and the Golden Globe for her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos.  Theron gained over 30 pounds for the role and completely transformed her appearance.  However, she was not the original choice. Kate Winslet was the first considered for the role.  Winslet is definitely a fine actress but Charlize Theron made it one of the finest and almost legendary performances in history.

North Country (2005) - nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award and Best Actress in a Drama Golden Globe.
Arrested Development (2005) - Theron did a several episode stint on the cult classic television show playing Rita, a child like adult who has a relationship with Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman). It was such a brilliant comedic departure from her darker motion picture roles.
In the Valley of Elah (2007)
Hancock (2008) - her first stint in the major summer blockbuster territory. I personally enjoyed her more than Will Smith. I am so ready for the sequel.
The Burning Plain (2008)
Young Adult (2011)
Prometheus (2012) - see my review
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) - see my review. In my opinion, should be her third Oscar nomination.

Millions of people went out this summer and watched the last two movies on the list.  I urge you to check out some of her earlier work and if you haven't already of course.  If it has been several years since seeing any of them, then watch them again.  It is a treat every time to see this timeless beauty stare into the camera, usually with a sinister glare, because sinister is what she does best.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.