Friday, July 27, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

I read a number of reviews saying that Rises is not as good as the previous one, The Dark Knight, and I would respectfully disagree.

TDK is about how darkness and evil can corrupt even the most upstanding of citizens, and in a way, it's about lacking faith in humanity.

For me, it's right on par with TDK, though villain-wise, Bane is not nearly as unpredictable and time-bomby as the enigmatic Joker of TDK. I found Bane interesting enough, though, probably because I had been ruined by Batman and Robin, where Bane was depicted as a mindless minion that is all brawn.

As a result of that horrible, horrible movie, I never thought Bane could be primary villain material. Played by Tom Hardy (a far cry from his skinny Star Trek: Nemesis days), Bane blew me away. He reminds me a little of Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell (from Prison Break), who seems redneck white trash enough but doesn't speak at all like one.

[And from then on, I've been taken by Robert Knepper.]

Frankly, I'm still not over the fact that Bane is not an idiot. But I digress.

This is a movie about a hero that falls and then rises again, which thematically, plays out in plot and music throughout the movie. That anthemic chant you hear in the trailer? It's in the opening scenes, and in most of Bane's. Surprisingly, this movie uses more elements from the comic books than the previous ones. It's still the gritty crime thriller that we all come to expect from Nolan's Batman movies, but the main difference in this is that it has far more action than its predecessors.

You even get to see the infamous back-breaking scene midway, though it doesn't look as brutal and iconic as originally drawn.

I loved how this movie brings the trilogy to full circle, in both storyline and sentiment. I won't say anymore than that, because I'm trying to practice writing spoiler-free reviews.

If you pay attention (and you will need to, as with all Christopher Nolan movies), you should be able to spot the all-usual Nolan twist way before it happens.

[And if you consider this as spoiling, obviously you've not seen a Chris Nolan movie.]

Oddly, this movie also brings to mind the Frat Pack. You see so many Nolan alumni in this one, it feels like a B-movie sequel to one of his movies where only the supporting actors return, and you find out that that sequel is completely unrelated to the original. In case you feel a bit lost here, the original I'm referring to is Inception.

So for me, I would say that Rises is right up there with TDK. No trilogy curse this time around. 9/10.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Amazing Spider-man (2012)

Reboots only happen when a movie franchise has run its course, both critically and financially (think George Clooney and Bat-nipples from the '90s). Admittedly, Spider-man 3 did suck ass, but it's only been five years. Really?

*No spoilers. Unless you've seen Sam Raimi's Spider-man.*

Considering that The Amazing Spider-man (TAS) goes back to the start of the story, the first half plays out like the first half of Sam Raimi's Spider-man. The only difference is that TAS is more faithful to the source material, with Peter making his own webbing devices (rather than being part of his mutated biology), Gwen Stacy being his first girlfriend (not Mary-Jane Watson) and the villain (the Lizard instead, and not arch-nemesis Green Goblin). Since we're still relatively fresh from Raimi's movies, the first part of TAS can be a bit draggy.

[The only thing missing from this movie is the iconic, “with great power comes great responsibility," line, but if you pay close attention, though, Uncle Ben kind of summarises the concept in one of the scenes.]

Surprisingly, TAS wasn't the chatty emotional dullfest I expected it to be (apparently it is based on the Ultimate Spider-man series, which had less emphasis on villains). It had sufficient action in the second act to thrill me (at least, enough to satiate my blockbuster cravings), and it also spent quite a bit of time on character development, which luckily didn't really slow the movie down at all.

Going in with no impression whatsoever of Andrew Garfield (haven't seen The Social Network), he completely bowled me over as Peter Parker. He's able to pull off being an awkward gangly teenager (despite being almost 30), and thankfully, isn't namby-pamby. Mainly, Garfield was adorable; think I may have a mini-crush now.

Special mention also goes to Rhys Ifans, who plays Dr Curt Connors/the Lizard, doing a fine job of balancing ethically-conflicted and what he actually wants (which is growing his arm back). It's a bit of a waste that Dylan Baker (who played Connors in Raimi's films) didn't get the chance to go full-on baddie, even after two instalments of foreshadowing. If you're curious to see what's been missed, he guest-stars on The Good Wife once in a while, and he's deliciously slimy in that.

Since this is the restart of the franchise, there is plenty of foreshadowing in this (there's a scene midway of the end credits), and several unresolved minor plotlines saved for the sequel. I'm hoping that they bring in Norman Osborne in the next one; he's plenty mentioned in TAS, but not seen.

I can't decide whether this trumps Raimi's first Spidey flick or vice versa, because both are equally enjoyable and both are good movies in their own right. The clearest comparison I can give is that Raimi's first is true to the definition of 'summer blockbuster', whereas TAS seems to be slated for a February/March release, rather than in July. The journey to becoming Spider-man is felt more in TAS, and in way, the timeline is slower as Peter is still in high school at the end of TAS (whereas in Raimi, everyone graduates high school quarter-way through the film).

[My only gripe with TAS is that I like Denis Leary too much.]

Although I still don't see the point in rebooting the series in such a short time, TAS is a worthy entry into the movie series. Do watch this. 8/10

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

This movie is sadly disappointing.

[And this review is sadly overdue.]

Snow White and the Huntsman starts off serious, but halfway through seems to decide otherwise, and then goes back to its Disney fairytale roots, switching back and forth.

This means pixies, and this huge stag (or was it an alpaca?) somehow 'acknowledging' that Snow White was meant to bring life and prosperity back to the land.

This inconsistency really got to me (I thought I was going to see a dark fantasy version of Snow White), and since it was being touted in all the promos as a Lord of the Rings epic kinda thing, the only thing it has in common with LOTR is that they go to battle in the end.

Despite the interesting notion of the Huntsman playing a more pivotal role in Snow White's destiny, this unfortunately was not elaborated any further than teaching her how to stab someone in the ribs. And also, unexpectedly being the one who kissed her back to life (rather than the 'prince' of the movie, William), but being not in love with Snow (she only reminded him of his dead wife), the kiss on the lips didn't really gel well with me as it didn't seem like something the Huntsman would do.

[At least kiss her on the forehead or something!]

Charlize Theron may look gorgeous as the evil Queen Ravenna (her costumes are fantastic!), but she's basically intoning everything in the same low voice, and when she's not doing that, she's screaming. They'd also included a backstory and a creepy brother, which worked, surprisingly, as it made her more interesting. I honestly don't see why everyone's raving about her performance, though admittedly, she emotes insecurity really well, especially in her scenes with her brother.

For Snow White herself, I tried to be as removed from bias as possible, but I couldn't help not seeing Bella Swan, instead of Kristen Stewart. The fact that the top part of Stewart's face still looks half-stoned didn't help, and the script didn't really make things better either (that battle speech after she woke was awkward). Apart from the Bella Swan stigma (i.e., blank-faced and slightly wide-eyed), I thought she was pretty okay.

And besides, if you wanted to go through the fairytale route, at least make her cough up that damn apple piece when she wakes up.

I have no complaints about Chris Hemsworth; he still has some goodwill leftover from being Thor.

Also, the dwarves are, in a way, redundant. Not from a plot point-of-view, but from casting; I don't see why you would cast normal-sized people, and then CG them into little people. Yes, tiny Ian McShane and tiny Bob Hoskins is adorable (actually, Hoskins is adorable no matter the size), but if Mirror, Mirror can get real little people to play dwarves, so can you.

5/10. The reason why I'm being rather harsh with this is because I was expecting dark, not semi-dark. If you're as disappointed as I am with this, do check out Snow White: A Tale of Terror, starring Sigourney Weaver as the Queen. Don't let the title mislead you; it's not too scary, but I find it's a pretty good retelling of the story.

[Better than the above, at any rate.]