Saturday, July 21, 2012

"Something a little more real" - 'The Dark Knight Rises' review

Let's go ahead and get one thing straight right off the bat:

The Dark Knight Rises is not better than The Dark Knight. It's not even close to its level. The middle film of Chris Nolan's trilogy is, perhaps even more clearly now, lightning in a bottle, the kind of bold blockbuster that comes once a decade.

True, there may not be a single shot as pulsating with fevered energy as when the Joker stuck his head out of a police cruiser with the camera whipping about, but that's not to say The Dark Knight Rises is not without its trove of riches. Measured, contemplative, and almost forlorn, the film's beats resonate across Nolan's seven years with Batman, proving that this may be the trilogy of our generation.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Haunted screens: 'The Dark Knight Rises,' Aurora, and spectatorship

I had already planned on writing a separate piece this weekend on the cultural and political prisms of The Dark Knight Rises, in addition to a review. In my mind, it would be a close (as much as can be allotted off of one viewing) look at how the politics of Batman have changed over the three films in accordance with the changing political landscape.

But after this morning, all of that seems feeble. For not. Pointless. As pointless as a Rush Limbaugh rant trying to connect Bain Capital to Tom Hardy's Dark Knight villain. This morning, as I'm sure you've read, 12 people were killed and over 30 wounded as they sat watching The Dark Knight Rises at a midnight screening in Aurora, Colorado. Some reports say the shooter, a 24-year old PhD student, was dressed as the Joker, firing off gas cannisters and rifle fire. I've resisted watching any video or looking at any images of this event because, frankly, the thought sickens me to my core.

There are a lot of awful, evil things that happen every day in the world, but this one hits close to home.

Monday, July 9, 2012

All the little pieces - 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' review

The first image of director Benh Zeitlin's premiere feature, Beasts of the Southern Wild, is of a six-year old girl holding a chick and arranging a mound of dirt on which to place it. It's an image shot from a distance, almost out of focus, gently rocking with a handheld motion. The image itself is as precarious as this moment of unfiltered childhood exploration.

Beasts has already emerged as one of the year's most lauded efforts, exploding out of nowhere at Sundance to win prizes there, at Cannes, and -- let's face it -- some hyperbolic reviews from all corners of the U.S. And to its credit, there is something almost intangible about the film, a kind of primitivism that transcends its almost inherent naivete and its at-times technical sloppiness. It yearns to make the kind of statement about the human condition only great art can make, to explore our connections with communities of nature, people, places, and things utterly cosmic -- and it attempts this without (often) dawdling into on-the-nose sentiment.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Of teen love and CGI overloads: 'Amazing Spider-man' review

"Didn't we just do this?"

That might be a question that rings in your ears for most of Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-man, a re-telling of Peter Parker's transformation into masked crimefighter made just ten years after the wild success of Sam Raimi's first Spider-man movie. Its mere existence has brought up the old proclamations about how those studio bigshots only care about taking our money (of course they do) and that this new Spidey is merely pummeling us with a brand that we'll flock to like sheep. Fair criticisms to be sure, even if they don't exactly take into consideration that Spider-man himself (like almost every major comic book character) has gone through his own revitalizations and re-tellings since the 1960s.

So then, if Sony is taking that same approach, we should expect this new movie to be something completely different, a la Chris Nolan's Batman Begins, right? Well, sort of. The Amazing Spider-man is tonally different (if not drastically) with a bit more blood and a bit less campy than Raimi's vision, but it has its own adolescent growing pains that keep it from emerging as fully engaging and engaged.