Category: Film

Poor Franchise Choices

I went to see X-Men this lunchtime with Michelle at Vue Reading as a late birthday treat. Over a year since I have been to the cinema in the Berkshire town, last time was to see Fast Six with Pav. With regards to the X-Men franchise, I have always made poor choices, perhaps even today.

The original X-Men and sequel X2 passed me by and I did not actually watch the first until late into my first year at University. The second I caught during my placement year in 2002. My friend, Sippy was a big fan and I have to say the start of X2 is probably one of the best openings to a superhero movie ever. So having missed the boat, I decided to go and watch the third and perhaps weakest movie in the franchise in the cinema, in late May 2006. Perhaps I should not have bothered but it was good to finally see our band of mutants on the big screen after the two outings on the small screen.

Three years later, I went to see X-Men Origins: Wolverine with Pav at the same cinema on a Friday night at the end of April. Disappointingly Jackman was unable to pull off a movie on his own, he needed a good group of mutants to support him. While there was potential here, particularly the Deadpool character, it was a missed opportunity by Marvel. No wonder Fox decided to go back to the drawing board.

In 2011, I was too busy distracted by the plans for our wedding to actually go and watch X-Men First Class. I had dismissed the reboot, after two rather lacklustre movies, which I had spent good money on to see on the big screen. I did not want to be disappointed again. Later, I would receive the movie on Blu-Ray for Christmas and watch over the festive period and be completely blown away. The X-Men were back with a bang and the entire franchise, and not just been rejuvenated but re-set.

Roll forward almost three years and we were keen to catch the film at the cinema and not wait for the home video release. After watching Jackman, McAvoy and Fassbender on Graham Norton a few weeks ago, we wanted to see the movie, mainly because we could see how much fun the group had on set. My verdict, seven out of ten, it was good fun, entertaining but quite predictable in places and no way near as good as First Class. Maybe because they needed to cross pollinate the two cast groups to bridge a new timeline for the future movies. If there is one thing the studios love, it is a bankable movie franchise with multiple money making opportunities.

You Will Believe A Man Can Fly

While I sometimes feel old beyond my years, there are many times I am glad I grew up in the early Eighties. Superman is my favourite superhero and the role was played by Christoper Reeve as if he had been born for the title role. May his soul forever rest in piece. His gift to the world, among many things was his perfect portrayal of the son of Krypton and his alter-ego, the clumsy Clark Kent. Everything is captured on film across four movies and we can relive in high definition his appearances in the famous red cape and blue suit. The less said about the cheap fourth and until 2006 the final outing (The Quest for Peace) the better!

Superman

Almost seven years ago I went to see Superman Returns at Vue Reading with my sisters Samantha and Julie. I enjoyed the movie but there plenty of things wrong with the reboot of the franchise. Brandon Routh was a good choice to play Superman, as he resembled Reeve so closely. However, I was unconvinced of his portrayal of Clark. Although you would feel that Spacey was an excellent choice on paper for super villain Lex Luthor, he was disappointing. Plus the minor plot hole of Superman’s son having powers was never truly evaluated. The audience is left guessing, perhaps they would have explored that more deeply in a sequel. The film performed badly in the States and only marginally better overseas.

During the week I watched parts of Superman II : The Richard Donner Cut, a version of the movie which should have been released in 1980 but we had to wait twenty six years for the finished master piece to be released on DVD. Much better than the Lester version and true to the belief that you can produce a comic book movie without going down the camp route.

In Loving Memory

I feel I should have made time to watch at least Superman I and II before going to see The Man Of Steel last night. Perhaps even the third movie which was purely a vehicle for comedian Richard Pryor. It helped last year when I watched Batman Begins and The Dark Knight before going to see The Dark Knight Rises at Vue Westfield, with Ali, Michelle and Steve. Although people would argue this was a reboot, so effectively a completely new book rather just a new chapter in the franchise. This was the moment to put those 1980s movies on the shelf and look toward the future. The world has changed a great deal since 2006 and rival Marvel have raised the bar even further with The Avengers and comic mate, The Dark Knight Trilogy only came to a roaring climax less than a year ago.

The build up to this movie has been immense and I even downloaded one of the first trailers to watch at home. The whole package was clearly measured and respectful to a special character. This was not a rushed affair, they had taken the time to develop a story that you want to invest your time (and money) into. Oscar winner director Brad Bird perhaps summed up most comic book diehard fans feelings with his tweet, exactly a month before the films release.

There was no question of not seeing this movie on release date. It was just a case of when and with whom. Michelle does not like Superman (so even the draw of Henri Carvell was not enough). I hatched a plan with Pav to go watch the movie straight after work on the Friday. We opened up the movie night to the boys but only Foxy replied. Ben’s late shift change, enabled him to buy a ticket later in the week and he was sitting right behind me. 6pm was the time of the screening. I waited outside for the guys to arrive and could see many fans wearing their S logo t-shirts. You will be surprised to know I own only a Superman mug but not a t-shirt, just an apron. Overall it was good fun but in places I felt there was just too much going on in the screen to keep up. Am I starting to show my age? (We watched in 3D at Vue Reading and on Pav’s insistence had upgraded to VIP seats). Action scenes were extended to the point of becoming meaningless. While I applaud the direction style, with several close ups taking us directly into the heart of the action. The plot jumped around once we had moved from Krypton to Earth. I would have enjoyed seeing Clark grow up and discover his powers over time but instead we are given flashbacks to his past. These worked to show Kal-El’s internal conflict of being different. Was it as dark as I expected? No, but there was very little comic relief whatsoever, this was a serious movie, in both tone and execution. Lois Lane has an expanded critical role which I felt gave way too much but this was a way to doing the building for the final scene. The Hans Zimmer score did grow on me throughout the picture but it will always be hard to live up to the epic Williams score. What can I say but this man just knows how to write film music and has scored most of the movies of my childhood. As heavy as we wear those rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia, we have to move on and so does the multi billion dollar movie business.

Everything about this movie was fantastic, the use of a British actor. Top three comic book heroes are played by Brits now, Batman (will he return for a Justice League movie) and Spiderman. Perhaps Superman Returns had failed because it had wanted to be so closely matched to the first two movies. Reusing Brando dialogue and the John Williams score. Here we had a complete cut from the old cloth with a brand new back story with many minor changes to the mythology. I was so glad when I heard General Zod would be the villain but Michael Shannon had the big shoes of Terence Stamp to fill. Would he live up to it? He did and the battle between the two men of Krypton was worth the wait.

Overall extremely entertaining and a blast from start to finish. The movie was far from perfect in terms of the plot and narrative but the action and Henry Cavill as Superman lived up to the superstar billing of a summer blockbuster. Some will complain it was too long at almost three hours but I would complain that it was not long enough. I did want more character development and some time with the adult Clark Kent at the Daily Planet but that will just have to wait for the green light sequel. The love story between Clark and Lane was also down played and I prefer this, so as not to get in the way of the action although I was extremely disappointed for her to to be the first to discover the alien’s identity. It would have been better to reveal this either towards the end or in a subsequent movie. For now at least the memory of Christopher Reeve can rest easy, he is still the best Superman on celluloid but how long that will remain is just a matter of time. “Trust me, I was born in Kansas!”

Supercook

Destination London

Some movies you anticipate for over a year, sometimes longer. Triple ‘A’ grade movies, such as The Dark Knight Rises, The Man Of Steel and even the finale to Hangover. However, there are also the second tier of movies, Grade B if you will, which you try and catch at the multiplex but if you do not, you are not that disappointed. It is not the end of the world. You will always catch on blu-ray a few months later or subsequently when they appear on television several years later. The Fast & Furious franchise is one very much close to my heart as a petrol head but I can take it or leave it. This was only the third movie of the now six movie franchise that I had actually watched on the big screen. I recall watching the first movie while at University and being blown away. This was the first time that I could recall Hollywood producing a worthy racing car movie. Japan (in particular) but other nations had a long history of race car movies. Sure it was not perfect by any means but it was a start and I had enjoyed the ride. If you had told me then, that I would have seen sequels five and six at the cinema, over ten years later I would not have believed you!

As agreed after watching the last installment back in April 2011, (we had stayed for the post-credits scene which set up the plot for the sequel) I was going to watch Fast Six and all further sequels with my bestie Pav. I originally had thought he would want to catch the afternoon showing at 2pm but instead he opted (once cleared with Emily) to come along to the 8:30pm showing in our second home (screen four). The auditorium was at 60% capacity when I booked tickets on Sunday evening just before dinner. I was really looking forward to the movie. It has been a while since I visited a cinema at peak time on a weekend, rather than the cheaper saver Tuesday. It was worth paying full price in my opinion for what would be a great action movie. Sometimes, you just want to be entertained and escape away from life’s troubles. You can leave your brain outside and have a few hours to be taken on an epic adventure.

Fast & Furious 6

I happened to watch Kermode on BBC News briefly on Friday evening before I headed to the gym. He reviewed Fast Six, explaining if you had seen the full trailer, you had seen all the best parts from the movie and you could spare yourself the time and money of watching the rest of the movie. I have to disagree with Mark (I usually do). This is an action movie, the set pieces are always completely ridiculous, stretching the believable to the limit and on this occasion most of the action takes place in London. The film delivered pretty much what I expected and maybe a little bit more. The comedy value was turned up a level with even Hobbs having some classic lines. It was great fun and I will catch it again when released on home media. In fact, I really want to watch Fast Five again! Good fun and the great news is that the next movie will be part of a new trilogy – 7-8-9…

Since joining Tumblr, I stumbled across The FastCast blog. Mainly because I entered cars as one of my hobbies and I believed I was linked through by a Tumblr car photography blog. One of the first entries was a podcast, previewing the sixth installment in the franchise. If you are a fan and want a recap before you have seen the movie, I highly recommend you listen to this episode, it is just under an hour and various aspects of the entire franchise are discussed including what to expect in the upcoming movie. I listened to the episode while in the gym the other day and hope to listen to the review episode in the coming week. The movie was released a week later in the States to make the most of a long weekend for Memorial Day. A special dedication therefore to the podcasters themselves, Creighton DeSimone and Chris Ziegler.

Aural Fixation

My viewing habits are well documented, the majority of my blog posts begin or lead to a moment from the television screen. My wife and I tend to focus on watching television shows during the week and save our movies for the weekend. However, sometimes an old classic is shown on Film4 or ITV2 and you just cannot resist the temptation to watch. A prime example was the 1980s action classic Total Recall last summer. On Wednesday night, we decided to watch Pitch Perfect. I had toyed with the idea of watching at the cinema but as the saying goes, you snooze you lose, so by the time I had actually thought I would go and see it, screenings had stopped. Never mind, I perhaps would have a felt a little short changed if I had spent money on cinema tickets (even on Saver Tuesday at our local Empire).

My expectations were a family unfriendly extended episode of Glee, in a college rather than high school environment. I like a capella music but am not particularly fond of mash-ups (see previous blog post). However, putting that to one side, this movie was great fun! I was unaware that Brittany Snow was one of the leads. An actress I have only come across in the last few years. Although I had heard about the movie John Tucker Must Die I actually had not seen it until it was on television a few years ago. Michelle told me it was worth watching and very funny! Unfortunately there is zero trace of me noting watching the movie sometime in 2011 on Twitter, Facebook or this blog. This was the first time I came across the beautiful actress Brittany Snow. I will sidestep the topic of her amazing body and instead focus my attention on her acting ability which was fantastic but we have to give the caveat that this was just a high school teen movie. The reality is, I should not have been watching this movie so close to my 30th birthday. A few months later, we watched Prom Night as the 2008 remake re-imagining was on Film4. I recall during this time we were going through an Idris Elba phase (Michelle in particular), watching Luther on television (stupidly season two before watching season one a fortnight later). I wonder if he will become the next Bond after Craig?

As a big fan of Glee, I was the ideal audience for Pitch Perfect but my expectations of a gross-out comedy in the vain of Bridesmaids, were quickly put to bed. This was going to be a fun ride and all the performers were actually extremely good singers in their own right, we just had not seen any of them sing before. Rebel Wilson steals the show as Fat Amy! The soundtrack was excellent, particularly some of the older songs from the 1980s. Some of the mashups were good but I was disappointed that some of the songs featured so prominently in the movie were neglected from the album. While the movie is centred around Anna Kendrick’s character, Beca I feel the supporting cast steal the show in many scenes. Character development is much further down the list of priorities but as an audience we tend not to worry about such things. Particularly if the film is entertaining enough! Great fun and highly recommended. Do not just take my word for it, the movie is rated as 80% fresh over on Rotten Tomatoes. Particularly watch out for one of the actors from The Treble Makers who has a close resemblances to my brother-in-law.

Film Title: Pitch Perfect

While reviewing Wikipedia as you do after watching a movie, particularly one you have enjoyed, it was great to see an update (as recently as yesterday) that a sequel has been green lit and Rebel Wilson as actually signed up for another two movies. A movie dedicated to Fat Amy, now that I would pay money to see!

Meesh, Teg & Tom

Perhaps it will become a tradition at Christmas, much like Her Majesty’s Speech to the United Kingdom and Commonwealth promptly at 3pm. Last year I went to see Tom Cruise, in the action blockbuster, Mission:Impossible – Ghost Protocol, with my Dad at IMAX Waterloo. (I am sure I have mentioned before but just to underline again – the biggest screen in the country). My wife is not a fan of the Top Gun actor but puts up with my soft spot for him and his movies. However, I was hoping to catch Jack Reacher over the Twixmas period. (The days after Christmas but before the new year drops) my Dad had been my initial choice but he was busy and frankly not that interested after seeing what he called a rather moody trailer.

It was a true surprise when I opened a third Christmas gift which I had not been expecting and in all honestly had not noted under the tree in the lead up to the big day. Sure, I may be into my thirties now but that does not stop me snopping under the tree and doing a quick count on the number of my presents. I am really looking forward to our trip to the cinema on Thursday evening, which will of course begin with a trip around the sales in The Oracle, Reading.

Jack ReacherCinema Ticket

Let It Crumble

I am not a major fan of James Bond. My Dad is the biggest fan I know but he has grown up with the movies! We are very different as father and son, he prefers the comic dryness of Englishman Roger Moore and I prefer the gritty realism of Welshman Timothy Dalton. In fact, there was a point at the turn of the century, when the last Bond movie I had seen was actually 1989 Licence To Kill. The Pierce Brosnan movies had passed me by for what would be my lost Bond decade. It was not until I was in college and my dearest friend Pav mentioned that the opening to The World Is Not Enough was the best opening to any (action) movie he had ever seen, did I re-consider the franchise. Perhaps Ian Fleming’s MI6 secret agent was worth another try.

The build up to this release was immense, even if you do not factor in the 50th anniversary of Dr. No. The third outing for Craig had been a major disappointment. Craig was never my choice to be in the role, I thought it was the ideal time for a black actor to be set into what is regarded as the quintessential British spy. However the producers, even in early 2004 felt this was too much of a risk to take. (Perhaps they will take the risk after Craig’s final two part finale piece over the next few years). Did people still want Bond? Casino Royale was good, Bond was portrayed with a modern day realism, sure he was cocky but not at all cheesy. He came across as hard work and I believe as a spy, this would be his overwhelming persona. On screen, Craig delivered, but the movie itself was very well put together with an excellent cast and most importantly great villain. I enjoyed the movie back in late November 2006, even if there were a bunch of uncontrollable schoolboys sitting in the row behind us at the Vue Oxford. There was enough going on to keep you involved and perhaps the only missing element was more Bond girls.

Nevertheless I was happy with the new direction the franchise was heading in and looking forward to the next instalment. What is it with Bond movies and the month of November? Are we never to get a release in the summer months? Oh yes, that is during the US blockbusters and the marketing team do not want to compete with the likes of Transformers 4 or Thor 2. I was actually out of the country in November 2008, for the release of sequel, Quantum of Solace. (Out of the country purely in the laterally rather than geographical sense, I was actually in North Wales). I went to the see movie at the Odeon with my best mate Dave. He had never seen a Bond movie at the pictures before so this was a new experience. I was disappointed for several reasons. The plot was non-existent, the villain was light weight to say the least and the whole objective was revenge. Revenge as a theme works in some movies but not with Bond. (For the record, I have not seen On Her Majesty’s Service). Another area where both movies were below the standard of their predecessors were the songs. It still is the utmost honour to be chosen to pen the theme tune to Bond. However, after poor song releases which did not even feature the title of the movie in their lyrics, it was time to get back to basics. On this point, beyond all others, Skyfall goes back to the oldschool. Adele was an inspired choice and her song added to the excitement of the movie. It is a shame, as I left the cinema this afternoon, how underwhelm I felt.

Sure it ticks many of the Bond boxes, action from the get go, sexy Bond girls and delightfully evil villain but the whole final third was a major disappointment. My expectations had been blown out of the stratosphere by friends, work colleagues and even some online commentators (plus Chris Evans and Vassos Alexandar on BBC Radio 2). I was expecting a major show down between Bond and Silva. It never materialised after over two hours of major meandering around each other, the build up to the final epic battle, never lives up to your heightened expectations. Similar to Mission Impossible III (just like Craig, Cruise’s third outing as Ethan Hunt) the bad guy is built up to such an extent but under utilised in the third act. Having said that, at least there is a final battle of sorts between Hunt and Davey. While keen not to reveal too much of the plot, all I can say is that Bond appears to be caught on the back foot throughout. The film borrows a great deal of plot devices from The Dark Knight, so it was a shame they could not have come up with a more original story but then this is Bond and as much as they try to go against type, why change a formula that has worked for fifty years.

My Dad’s friend went to the Royal Premere in London on Wednesday 23rd October – two days before the national release in the UK. Unfortunately my Dad was not able to attend as there was only one ticket but he did get his hands on the official souvenir programme. Impressive to say the least, shame the film for me, was a great deal of image over substance. A shame, but with a two part finale for Craig, hopefully this was just an extended two hour trailer to setup the personnel for films twenty four and twenty five!

Skyfall

Afternoon Matinee

How times have changed. I rarely visit the cinema during peak time any more. I used to be a regular with my dearest friend Pav at the Reading Vue, without fail most Friday evenings for the 8pm screening of the latest blockbuster in their biggest screen (4). We got to the stage, that we even knew the best seats to pick in the auditorium. However, that was many years ago. Now, I tend to visit the local multiplex (Empire Slough) on a Tuesday evening, when they have their Super Saver deal (£2.95 per a ticket, rather than £8.50 plus on a weekend).

Looper is a movie that came up from nowhere if I am honest but then I have not exactly been feeding my film addiction via blog or social media. The truth is that beyond the major Hollywood blockbusters, I tend to be very selective on the movies I go to the cinema. Two hours is a big investment of my time. We saw the trailer, while going to see the recent remake of Total Recall, with my wife Michelle and my brother-in-law Steve. We had seen the original on DVD the previous week and I was surprised my wife had not seen it before. Although released in 1990, it is an ultra violent 1980s gun fest, with Schwarzenegger with all the corny lines. Such a one dimensional actor but we love him nevertheless! I felt a little disappointed with the remake, perhaps because it changed so much of the source material (I mean original Verhoeven movie, not the Philip K. Dick novel). Perhaps my expectations were two high, particularly with Colin Farrell in the lead role but I thought it gave a moderately average performance, I was disappointed in Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale. I wanted them to have the similar level of showdown on Mars as Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin. Never mind, it was a good action flick but perhaps the 29% rotten rating over on Rotten Tomatoes is somewhat justified. Sometimes, a classic is a classic for a reason. It is untouchable, Hollywood please do not continue in your reluctant vain to remake classic movies from our teen years.

The trailer for Looper had me hooked, I have always loved the idea of time travel and this felt like a revised take on Twelve Monkeys and parts of The Terminator. It was going to be interesting to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt lead a movie and see how he would cope with the staring aside a legend such as Bruce Willis (even if his star has faded in recent years). We decided to head over to the cinema on Saturday, to catch a Saturday matinee performance. The cinema will not be as busy and we beat the rush of a full-on Saturday night at the movies. There is a reassuring feeling leaving at 6pm, to get home at a decent time, rather than 11pm. I am officially getting old. God help me! We chose Uxbridge, as the movie was yet to be given enough screen time in Slough. Plus, to be fair, I have got rather bored of my local multiplex and longed for a change of scenery. Uxbridge is only a few miles away and although an Odeon (therefore no Pearl & Dean) it fitted the bill. We chose the 15:30 showing and had a light lunch (sandwiches) while in the auditorium.

It was a fantastic movie, with much more drama than science. The story is all character led and the time travel is just part of the dilemma the participants face. I would not describe it as The Matrix for our decade, that is going rather too far, but it is an interesting action movie that makes you think about various aspects of life. I would highly recommend it to you, it makes a change from some of the movies that have been released in recent months and is actually quiet entertaining. You will have to get over the fact that Joseph’s appearance is drastically changed to ensure he resembles as a younger Willis. Go in with an open mind, there are quite a few twists and turns and some unexpected plot devices. For any feel that requires an ounce of intelligence, pay attention to the opening few minutes, as the foundations of the plot are set. I suppose with any movie, it is about setting your expectations low and coming out surprised, as I was. However, it is unfair to compare against 1999 The Matrix, this is more a drama than a science fiction.

The Caped Crusader Returns

I have no idea where to begin with this post. I was tempted to start with the first film, Batman Begins which I saw with Pav at the Vue in Reading way back on Thursday 16th June 2005. (The beauty of having and at times maintaining a blog means I can jump back in time with perfect twenty twenty vision). However, before I get to that, I think I should really go back to my love affair or lack thereof, in Batman on the silver screen. We start therefore, not a mere seven years ago, but over two decades. Let me take you back to Christmas Day 1991. This was when the original Batman movie by Tim Burton made it’s Network Television (what we now all call terrestrial) premiere – so much so that the Beeb even amended their Christmas logo for such a milestone event. I recall playing around with my Christmas present which was a remote control Ferrari F340 in the early evening but stopping to watch the film. It was Christmas Day, one of the few days of the year we could stay up late and watch a film which we were perhaps a little young for. I was looking forward to seeing the film because cinema trips were relative special treats back then, even with Wycombe Six a five minute walk from our house. My Mum was rather over protective, thinking that scenes with the Joker would give us nightmares but my Dad wanted us to see something of a traditional superhero movie that had been missing for some time. My Dad had been the first to introduce us to Reeve as Superman (both first films were released a few years before I was born). These two titans of DC Comics were the reason I became fascinated with superheroes. My love for the genre developed and grew over the coming years. I recall watching the film in wonder with my younger sisters and was taken into this dark seedy world of Gotham. Michael Keaton was perfectly cast as both Batman and Bruce Wayne. He is perhaps still the best Bruce Wayne on film due in part to his unique talent to play the eccentric orphaned billionaire constantly on the edge! I enjoyed the movie, as any eleven year old boy would. I did not know that a sequel would be released the following year. I have to confess that I was not a big cinema visitor back then. I saw Batman Returns, many years later on terrestrial television once again. I did not really enjoy the movie at the time, it was perhaps too dark and gloomy and as a moody teenager, bursting with hormones, a guy dressed up as a Bat just did not cut it for me anymore. My best friend at the time, Andrew Todd mentioned the transformation scene for Catwoman, with the graffiti on the wall – Hello There, Hell Here. It took me a while to work out what he was referring to (only making sense once I watched the movie shortly thereafter.)

Batman Forever was released in 1995 and at the time I was more interested in the soundtrack than the actual movie. Although I must confess that Nicole Kidman was a particular draw itself. Seal’s Kiss From A Rose is still perhaps one of my favourite romantic songs of all time, so much so that I can recall vividly a uni friend playing it on the guitar and singing along at our halls in Leicester, five years after the films release. The fact we are still talking about the soundtrack and not the movie itself, should speak volumes. On paper Val Kilmer seemed like a great choice for Batman, particularly as Keaton had removed himself from the casting decision (turning down a $15 million pay cheque as a consequence), since Burton would only have a Executive Producer role, with Joel Schumacher taking over directing reins. It was the beginning of the end but we just did not know it. Sure Batman Forever was fun, as a comic book movie but Batman had lost his edge and at times it felt a little cheesy. (Worse was to come in the follow up, two years later). However it was the villains that were perhaps the greatest disappointment and even they overshadowed Batman to a certain degree. Jim Carey was perfectly cast as The Riddler and had a ball but Tommy Lee Jones as Two Face was wrong, the character just did not work for me. Billy Dee Williams should have been given the chance to reprise his role from Batman Returns. I believe in being radical with your casting, why can Harvey Dent not be played by a African American actor? I am just waiting for the moment that James Bond is cast in such a way.

Fast forward to late June 1997, and I was in my period of two weeks work experience (not sure if this still happens when you are towards the end of Year 10 at secondary school). My Dad had arranged for me to work at a computer media duplication office just outside Uxbridge, but he had also arranged a day for me at our local paper – The Bucks Free Press. He had spoken to the editor Karen Hoy and arranged for me to spend a day there, to witness the hustle and bustle of a busy newspaper office. I was invited along with the two other work experience boys (one of whom was actually from my school) to a press screening of Batman & Robin at the UCI cinema. We saw the movie in an empty cinema on I believe a Wednesday afternoon, two days before the official nationwide release. I was rather disappointed with the film but felt George Clooney had tried his best to be a caricature Batman for a family orientated film designed to sell toys. I wrote a quick review on the Apple Mac once we were back in the office and sent this over to the main reporter and my review was published in the local free paper The Star. (Although it no longer circulates to Cressex where my parents live in High Wycombe I believe it is still published every Friday). My review was probably quite average and non-offensive for a fifteen year old. My Mum kept the paper and still has a copy, perhaps I should scan a copy and upload to my blog. I would be interested to read what I had written all those years ago.

Warner Brothers had been keen for a long time to reboot the franchise, particularly after the critics heavily panned the fourth film. If they were going to spend the money, they had to back the right director and team. The vision for the character and tone of the film had to perfect. The studio, well aware that a bad movie could cast off one of their vital comic book franchises into the abyss. Let alone consider it would be good money thrown down the tube after bad. Success meanwhile could feed a whole knew franchise with multiple movies and the ability to sell a whole range of merchandise around the super hero. Everything was at stake, could Christopher Nolan deliver? Having re-watched Batman Begins on Sunday night I have a greater appreciation of the first film of the trilogy. Developing a character from scratch is perhaps the most difficult task but Nolan delivered and surpassed expectations. Rather than re-hash my initial review from seven years ago, I will leave you to read that post should you find the time or inclination. I really need to get on with the rest of my review, which has not even touched on The Dark Knight Rises and I have already hit over one thousand words.

the dark knight

The anticipation for the first sequel was high, extremely high. The sudden death of star Heath Ledger just added to the intense atmosphere. Pav went to see the movie with Barry on Thursday 24th July in Oxford but I waited twenty four hours to catch the same movie at the same theatre in probably the same auditorium. As the queues had been so big, our friend Clive had sneaked into the toilets and then quickly jumped the queue to save us some seats while I queued with a friend. The movie was amazing, I never thought Batman would ever appear on the silver screen and be portrayed so true the comic books but with a realism you could believe in without the whole thing turning into a camp pantomime. The Joker was an incredible foe and the theme of chaos wrecked havoc in Gotham. The film is so good that it could have been split in two, with part one before Harvey Dent takes on the persona of Two-Face. Part Two with him hell bent on revenge. The lasting image for me, will forever be Batman rushing from the final scene, in between cargo crates racing from Gotham’s Finest. When will we see The Dark Knight again?

The build up to the final chapter in the trilogy began for me, when the first teaser poster was released. This was over a year before the movie would be released in cinemas. Some five months later, I watched the prologue at the BFI IMAX in Southbank before Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Anticipation for the movie could not be higher, even if I could barely make out the Bane dialogue. I wanted to see the film at the IMAX on opening night (Friday 20th July). This was a big ask, but I knew when tickets would be released I would login as soon as I got to the office at 7:30am and not have any problems surely. I was to be proved so wrong. The BFI decided to roll out a brand new booking system for the biggest movie of the year (if not the decade). They released tickets at 2am (which is hardly useful if you work a day job like most people). I tried over the course of the morning and then gave up, e-mailing my brother-in-law to let him know of my failure. I took out some of my frustrations on Twitter The plan had been to book four tickets (Michelle, Steve, Magda and myself) for Friday evening. I was keen to the see the movie as soon as possible and knew somebody would ruin the story for me, if I saw it later. In fact, I believe I won an exceptional battle in avoiding the third trailer all together. I heard that it gave away too many plot points, so therefore avoided it like the plaque. Not an easy task in the modern era, with constant internet access and mobile phones that can stream a YouTube video within seconds. I believed that not knowing so much about the film, would make the concluding part of the trilogy a much more enjoyable experience. I also have not been to the cinema since The Avengers way back in late April. The was a subconscious decision as there was little that I wanted to watch at the cinema but our weekends themselves have been too busy for a cinema trip and our usual Tuesday night SuperSaver night at Empire has been replaced by the weekly food shopping trip.

On Steve’s suggestion, I decided to book tickets at Westfield Vue in Hammersmith for the opening night on one of their Xtreme screens. Michelle and I had been here to watch Clash Of The Titans and Iron Man 2 back in 2010 (in both cases in 3D, if my memory serves) and had been impressed with both the picture and sound. This was not IMAX and I am not trying to make up for not securing tickets at the biggest screen in the country but this was a fair substitute considering my limited alternatives. It allowed us all to catch the film on opening night, which for me was the most important thing. Magda could not make the viewing as she was working a late shift, so Steve’s friend Ali, came along instead. The anticipation could not be higher and I had been looking forward to 4:30pm on Friday. The moment I would walk out my office and make the trip into London to meet up with Steve and Michelle for some food before we headed to the cinema for 8pm. I had booked tickets as soon as they had become available on the Vue website and secured seats perfectly in the middle. We were all set.

The Dark Knight Rises

Rather than ruin the film for those yet to see it, let me just give a very quick summary. Simply the best film of the year. Perfectly put together with a great story, tying up of all the lose ends (which some trilogies fail to do) but beforehand taking us on a thrilling ride through the winter streets of Gotham City. While this may sound rather biased (as I have just seen the movie a few hours ago) it has automatically become my favourite of the trilogy even though The Dark Knight has a awesome story. Here we see Batman in pain, something that he has never truly had to content with in the previous two movies. I would like to go and see the movie again at IMAX at some point over the summer. Never before (for a Western film) have I heard people clap and cheer as the credits appear on the screen. Of course this is common practice on the subcontinent at end of a three hour plus Bollywood spectacular. I do not believe there will be a super hero movie put together as well as this. This is not to say I will stop watching the genre, because this is far from pure perfection. There are holes and some negative aspects but overall, if you consider each film a chapter, the three movies work so well as a story arc. I am trying my best to not give too much away, as I too would hate to have this film ruined for me. I liked the notion of not knowing that much walking into the cinema but with my expectations set into the stratosphere would it live up to all the hype? It did and then some more. I could not fault the direction, the vision, the effort put into bringing such an icon character to the screen but after so many failed and pitiful attempts, actually doing The Caped Crusader justice. My only hope now is that Warner Brothers are content with the Nolan trilogy and decide not to revisit this character for many years to come (a minimum of a decade if not longer). Why would we need to be re-told the story again? If we are to come back to Gotham, perhaps we return to life after Batman… surely there will be another masked man willing to become the symbol of justice for the city.

I must end with a funny story. You know the company you are with are enjoying the film, when at every awe inspiring moment, they knock their knee into yours. I am so glad I got to see this movie on release night but also that I went to see it with one of the biggest Batman fans I know – my brother-in-law – Steve!

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