Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Cinema Review - The Dark Knight Rises

As one of the most celebrated directors in the business today, Christopher Nolan has done what many people thought unimaginable. Like a phoenix from the ashes, the Batman franchise has been transformed from the infinitely hammy (I’m talking about you, Batman & Robin) to a stunning real world representation of one of DC Comics’ finest. Opening with Batman Begins, Nolan set the bar high with a superb origin story of how Bruce Wayne came to become Gotham’s cowl-wearing savior and instilled a breath of fresh air into proceedings. 

Once he had cracked the nut, Nolan went on to greater levels with The Dark Knight. With Christian Bale continuing his reign as the lead character, and Heath Ledger given the task of bringing a new age Joker to screen, expectations were at a high and audiences were far from let down. Ledger put in a career defining performance as a chilling and dark nemesis for Batman and the continuation of real world issues, coupled with a distinct level of darkness helped the film become one of, if not the, best comic book hero movies of all time. Needless to say, The Dark Knight Rises has been the most anticipated film of 2012 so does it live up to the abominable hype?

Eight years after the events that saw the death of Gotham District Attorney Harvey Dent, it appears the city is in a state of peace, with the 'Dent Act' in place seeing a staggering fall in crime levels. A place now revelling in a state of calm, Gotham no longer needs Batman in Bruce Wayne's eyes and following the death of his true love, Rachel, lives as a recluse in Wayne Manor, avoiding any outside contact. 

When he encounters a thief within the manor, breaking into his almost impenetrable safe, Bruce sets out to discover the mystery of the woman's identity and, in turn, uncovers a new and brute force waiting to take over Gotham and unleash pure destruction and chaos, Bane.

Christopher Nolan's final return to the streets of Gotham City and into the world of Batman is once again a piece of cinematic mastery. To follow such an astounding entry as The Dark Knight would be an unbelievable task for any director, no matter their reputation, and once again he does not fail to deliver a film that will go down in history as a modern classic.

Dark, gritty and unrelenting, TDKR is a tale of the highs and lows of an individual in the role of a hero and certainly manages to continuously convey the highs and lows through some intense and emotional scenes between some of the main characters, most notably Bruce (Christian Bale) and Alfred (Michael Caine). From Bale and Caine's emotively strong exchanges to the slick and sexy purrings of Anne Hathaway's Selina Kyle, the dialogue is a treat and, despite his voice appearing odd at times, even Tom Hardy as Bane is given some extra meat with some truly scary instances of dialogue.

As well as exceptional talent on display in the acting department, TDKR once again showcases a willingness to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat with a pulsating change in direction throughout, from the gradual catch up events in the first half hour to the stunning final hour. Nolan is a man who knows how to draw his audience in and he never lets up in giving us what we want.

Whilst not quite matching the magic of The Dark Knight, Nolan's final Batman movie is another instance of his pure genius and brings a poignant and utterly satisfying conclusion to the darkest saga in comic book film history. 

Film rating: 5 out of 5 F's

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Cinema Review - The Amazing Spider-Man

It was always going to be a tough year for Spider-Man to re-enter the superhero fray what with Avengers Assemble conquering the global box office and The Dark Knight Rises appearing as the most anticipated film of the year. After all, Spider-Man 3 was a blasphemous outing for the web-slinger and the idea of a reboot re-telling Peter Parker's past almost seemed a redundant idea.

Nevertheless, Sony Pictures proceeded with giving ol' Spidey the reboot treatment under the watchful eye of director Marc Webb (500 Days Of Summer) and placing Andrew Garfield in the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man.A decision that undoubtedly pays off in The Amazing Spider-Man.

Abandoned by his parents at a young age to live with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, Peter Parker remains clueless as to why his parents left him before their demise in a plane crash. As a teenager reaching the end of his school years, Parker is an independent and cool geek-chic figure, a guy who is happy to help out those in need and close to his aunt and uncle.

When Parker finds a briefcase of his father's containing possible leads to his sudden exit in his youth, he heads to Oscorp Industries to find a man that worked with his father very closely, Dr Curtis Connors (Rhys Ifans). Whilst exploring the various laboratories in the building, Parker is bitten by a genetically modified spider, an event that will change his life forever.

Working at Oscorp is Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), a strong and intelligent pupil whom Peter has a crush on. As their relationship blossoms, so too does Peter's with Connors, the pair looking further into research to re-grow the scientist's missing arm. When Connors and Parker come up with a formula that could well be the answer, Connors steps ahead to human testing, but things don't go to plan. The dose transforms the scientist into The Lizard and a path of rage and destruction begins.

Peter, now gracing the powers from the spider bite, becomes Spider-Man and is the only thing that can save the city from the evils of The Lizard.

A revisit to the origins of Spider-Man may have proved to be a huge fail but Marc Webb creates a new entry into the saga that is both strong in character and ultimately excites viewers. In Peter Parker we now have a cool kid who is confident enough to fight his own battles and attracts the hottest girl in school. Andrew Garfield adds a new definition to Peter Parker and in transforming to Spider-Man also breathes a new life into the hero, at times cocky and funny, but also a beacon of hope and respect. 

Coupled with Garfield, Emma Stone is just as strong in her role as Gwent Stacy. Erasing all memory of the constant droning of Mary Jane Watson, Stone's blonde-haired Stacy kicks her predecessor into touch and even jumps in to help our hero on occasion. Such a strong female is a joy to behold and the chemistry between the two sizzles beautifully. With Garfield and Stone outstanding, the inclusion of veterans Martin Sheen and Sally Field is unsurprisingly graceful, the aunt and uncle combination offering wisdom and solidness.

It is Rhys Ifans' The Lizard that slightly lets the side down, more so in the CGI stakes. Admittedly, Ifans offers his best evil act in the slow transformation of Connors but once we catch a look at The Lizard, the excitement somewhat falters. The CGI is shabby and at no point does it look as though Spidey's enemy will ever forge an upper hand against his foe, despite some wonderfully shot action sequences. 

The Lizard aside, The Amazing Spider-Man is a reboot to saviour for the web-slinger. Garfield and Stone are on sizzling hot form, the action (and even the 3D) mightily impressive and even Stan Lee's cameo is the best so far. If Webb keeps up this form with the franchise the Avengers may well come a calling!

Film rating: 4 F's out of 5

Monday, 2 July 2012

Cinema Review - Rock Of Ages

Are you ready to rock? If the answer to that question is yes then you are in for one hell of a treat. Heading straight from theatres into the local multiplex comes the film version of the much praised stage show Rock Of Ages, and together with a superb ensemble cast, the film supplies two hours of anthems and sheer joy.

Sherrie (Julianne Hough) has travelled from her hometown in Oklahoma to seek stardom in Los Angeles as a singer. Upon arrival she finds herself mugged of her collection of records only to meet Bourbon Club worker Drew (Diego Boneta), who manages to help her get a job at the club once convincing owner Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and his assistant Lonny (Russell Brand) that she would be a good bartender.

Whilst Sherrie and Drew spark a romantic relationship, the Bourbon Club prepares for the final gig of Stacee Jaxx's (Tom Cruise) career as a member of superstar rock band, Arsenal. With rock and roll at the pinnacle of the music business, there are a number of locals who strongly oppose the music and at the front of all protests lies Patricia Whitmore (Catherina Zeta-Jones), the mayor's wife, who will stop at nothing to ban it for good.

As Sherrie and Drew's relationship and dreams slowly hit a curve in the road, Stacee Jaxx finds himself feeling the effects of being a 'slave to rock and roll', and in Rolling Stone magazine's Constance Sack (Malin Akerman), realises he may have found the woman to usurp all those he has been showering himself with. Cue plenty of catchy numbers, a few surprising voices in the mix and a host of unbelievable performances, and Rock Of Ages gives you plenty of bang for your buck.

Containing such an impressive ensemble cast, Rock Of Ages could have suffered from overload but each star is given their chance to shine and none fail to deliver the goods. Hough and Boneta's chemistry represents a blossoming relationship you cannot help but will on, and Baldwin and Brand show off their own unique talents with an unlikely romance and sparkling moments of comedic genius. The likes of Akerman, Zeta-Jones, Mary J. Blige and Paul Giamatti all contribute to keep proceedings solid as a rock, but in truth it is Tom Cruise who steals the stage as rocker Stacee Jaxx.

Channelling rock gods such as Axl Rose, Jim Morrison and Keith Richards, Cruise revels in his unrecognisable role as rock idol Stacee Jaxx and even proves that he really does possess an incredible singing voice. Commanding each and every scene he appears in, Cruise acts exactly how a rock star should and blows away the audience with great ease.

Along with unleashing inner rock into the souls of his leading cast members, director Adam Shankman has copious amounts of fun blending a familiar storyline with songs that will get those toes tapping and even induce moments where you just want to get out of your seat and rock out. Shankman never lets up, with breathers a non-existence and this helps to ensure the two hours of songs, fun and frolics flies by. 

At times cheesy and cringe-worthy, Rock Of Ages does seem rather familiar at times but manages to make 120 minutes seem like five minutes with a quirky bunch of characters and some truly emphatic anthems. Whether you are a fan of Def Leppard, Journey, Poison or any other legendary rock band, or just a sucker for musicals, Rock Of Ages provides all the ingredients for a laughter-inducing feel-good session. Believe me, you will come out of it with a big smile on your face!

Film rating - 4 F's out of 5