Daily Archives: 21/04/2013

Batman Begins

BatmanBeginsBatman Begins (2005) – Originally written July 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

Creation of a ‘superhero’ is such a difficult topic. Whether rushed (‘Spiderman’) or hardly covered (aspects of ‘X-Men’) the original development of a character can make or break an entire chain of films. One such series was the original ‘Batman’ trilogy beginning with Tim Burton’s classic in 1989. This series of films began well but descended into chaos as the main character was recast and bad choices were made in terms of plot and enemy. Yet, this one DC Character (one of two major ones along with ‘Superman’) was never going to be gone for long. So it’s with a personal sense of joy that he has been resurrected for the 21st Century. Best of all the film is actually amazing. ‘Batman Begins’ is not just a rejuvenation but a resurrection and a re-imagining. It is one of the finest superhero films ever (if ‘Batman’ really suits the name superhero) and it will be difficult for a film to beat it to film of the year.

Back to the torments of Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), David S Goyer & Christopher Nolan’s story tells of the evolution of Wayne from a tortured soul, through to the saviour of Gotham City. Fighting corruption, moral flexibility and his own fears, Wayne will fight to rejuvenate the city that his long dead parents were such a prominent part of.

It’s hard to know where to start when praising ‘Batman Begins’. More a dramatic piece than your usual superhero story, it is also increasingly dark and plain. You don’t get men in bright red and blue spandex flying across the screen, just like you never really get colour of any sort. This is a film for those with a taste for the different shades of Gothic black, and my God it is glorious.

As the tormented and troubled Wayne, Christian Bale adds a whole new layer onto this playboy billionaire. Deeper than Michael Keaton, less artificial than Val Kilmer, and generally superior in every way over George Clooney, Bale IS Batman.

Perhaps the greatest thing about Bale’s disturbed superhero is actually the way that he embraces the darkness and exploits ‘negative’ emotions. Praying on the fear of the wicked, the only difference here between Batman and his nemesis is that he will not be an executioner. He’ll happily terrify someone and sometimes cross questionable moral lines, but he’ll never go the whole way and truly destroy someone. In a way it’s reminiscent of the way Luke Skywalker defies the Emperor in the ‘Star Wars’ films. Batman refuses to bow down and cross the boundary fully, and yet we sense that deep down he really, really wants to.

Alongside Bale’s hero, we also have an incredibly well constructed cast. Liam Neeson as teacher Ducard, Gary Oldman as future commissioner James Gordon, even heavily cockney Michael Caine as butler Alfred, all thrive on what the writers put in-front of them. Perhaps scarily, even Katie Holmes as deputy district attorney Rachel Dawes manages to drag a suitably good performance out of the bag. Yes this is a rejuvenation of the series both in plot AND in performances too. We need never remember Arnold Schwarzeneger’s Mr Freeze ever again.

Behind the camera, director Christopher Nolan (co-writer with David S Goyer) is amazing. Whilst his friend Goyer proved with the awful ‘Blade Trinity’ (the Blade equivalent of ‘Batman and Robin’) that he is a good writer but an awful directer, Nolan appears to be unable to put a foot wrong. Already responsible for beautifully made films ‘Memento’ and ‘Insomnia’, Nolan is some sort of modern day Einstein when it comes to portraying the darkness of the real world. He provides a compelling, dark and truly moving feeling which manages to keep you hooked for two hours of joy.

Many years ago we felt that ‘Batman’ was dead. Unable to revive under CPR, we thought ‘Batman and Robin’ had been the final nail in the coffin. It’s an amazing and wonderful feeling therefore to find the hero back in the beautiful ‘Batman Begins’. Powerful throughout, the story thrives and you never want it to end. This troubled hero really has began again and it’s like a Phoenix from the ashes. Perfect.

Casablanca

CasablancaCasablanca (1942) – Originally written August 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

Ok, Casablanca can simply be described in six words “The Greatest Movie Of All Time”.

In this film we get to witness Bogart & Bergman in their best performances, in one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) love stories of all time. The way the romance develops, disintegrates, develops again & finishes on a sad note, is one of the best film plots of all time. The acting is superb, the plot is majestic, the film may be in black and white (an idea which is often sadly dated in modern society, but not in this case) but it survives & by the end of this film, possibly the most famous movie scene of all time is shown, climaxing in what can be argued as the greatest line of all time.

I guess the problem with writing reviews is that it’s often easy to write vast ammounts about a film you hate, but when it comes to a film you love, you embrace it to such a degree that it’s almost impossible to think of anything fresh and original to write.

so, with that last statement in mind, let me say this. If you have never seen Casablanca, you must be mad. If you have seen Casablanca and dislike it, you must be even madder. This film is genius, pure, classical genius.

The Godfather (2 Reviews)

GodfatherThe Godfather (1972) – Originally written August 2003 AND July 2004

*** These reviews may contain spoilers ***

First Review – 27th August 2003

Ok, I’m two hours into this film and I just don’t get the hype and appeal. I admit my choices in movie are varied (my top five films are “American Beauty”, “Donnie Darko”, “Casablanca”, “Henry V” and “When Harry Met Sally”), but I watched this film with possibly too much expectation. A friend of mine adores this film, and any Mafia film in general, and along with the vast majority of imdb members, he recommended this film to me. The problem is, why?

Don’t get me wrong though, before someone starts to condemn me, I appreciate the acting, I understand that Al Pacino performs stunningly throughout, I admit that Marlon Brando is another highlight (although his voice annoys me slightly throughout), but I just don’t see why people adore this film. Ok, after reading reviews, the obvious differences between people are blatant. Some people adore this film and consider it the best ever, some dislike it. All that is fair enough. Sadly though, I feel I am slightly more towards the later. I don’t dislike this film, it has highlights, but I can’t help but feel it is long winded, infuriatingly complicated & at times, ridiculously slow. Graphically, it is superb, acting is tremendous, but I just feel the plot doesn’t hold upto scratch.

Perhaps I am a fool, but I just fail to get the hype. Perhaps if I was more of a fan of Mafia films I’d appreciate it more, perhaps. Perhaps if I’d seen it at the cinema in 1972 I’d love it, perhaps. However, after watching it at such a relatively late age of 20 in 2003, I might enjoy this film, I might like a few scenes a lot, but I really fail to understand how it could make it to number 1 in people’s lists. I guess in the end of the day, it is all down to opinion.

————

Second Review – 8th July 2004

For the sake of a personal confession, this review of the Godfather is not as neutral and objective as it should be. For that I apologise, but with good reason.

In August 2003, after watching “The Godfather” in what I assume now must have been a tired state, I condemned and criticised this film for being overrated, drawn out and dull. Today on the eighth of July 2004, I apologise for such a flawed review. “The Godfather”, whilst still perhaps not worthy of it’s number one slot, is one of the best films ever created.

In this film, we are introduced to the Corleone family. The story starts at the wedding of Connie Corleone to Carlo Rizzi. As is tradition amongst Sicillian families, Connie’s father, The Godfather, Don Vito Corleone hands out favours to those who respectfully ask for his help. At the wedding as well are the Don’s other children, Fredo (John Cazale), the violent Sonny (James Caan) and the youngest, the war hero, Michael (Al Pacino). Over two and a half hours of film later and the lives of Vito and his family are changed forever as this one Gangland family fights with external and internal problems.

“The Godfather” is a beautiful piece of cinema. With the late Marlon Brando putting in a fine performance as Vito, the film had a figurehead character. Ultimately however, it is Al Pacino who deserves most praise. Rarely can there be shown in a film such a dramatic change in a character over such a space of time. Going from a law abiding war hero returning from the Second World War with medals and a beautiful wife, Pacino’s Michael gradually changes in appearance and style as he takes his place at the head of the family. Everything about him is designed to show the change in his character. His hair changes style, his clothes change style, even his face changes mannerisms (although partly due to his jaw being broken by a corrupt police chief). Pacino as Michael demonstrates just how truely awesome an actor he is.

The acting alone is not just what makes this film great. The way in which characters are added and removed from the story is clever. Nobody is too good a character to be written out and everybody is given a chance to play a key role in the events.

The musical direction of “The Godfather” is another part of it’s beauty. As well as the obvious piece of music which everyone is aware of, the ways in which sound is used to keep our attention at times is superb. The background music and the location from Michael’s time in Italy is beautiful. All in all, there’s nothing which can be faulted.

When I originally wrote a review for this film last year, I complained of how it was overrated and dull, that is a mistake I now regret. “The Godfather” is a beautiful film that I might not necessarily place at number one in the internet movie database all time list, but which I can see why it is there. This film is a piece which everyone should be forced to watch and a piece which, if they pay attention to it, they will love.

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