The Dark Knight Rises. Directed by Christopher Nolan. How do you sum up the final third of Nolan’s epic Batman trilogy? I don’t think you can. There are two possible mindsets to have before watching TDKR: a) it’s going to be better than its predecessor, The Dark Knight or b) The Dark Knight can’t be beat so you might as well enjoy TDKR for what it is. I came prepared with the latter idea and that way I wasn’t as disappointed as I could have been. Considering how big a deal it was among fanboys and fangirls that Bane would be the villain, I found the character – and Tom Hardy – underwhelming. You barely learn any of Bane’s backstory and his exit from the film is not particularly fulfilling either. Michael Caine’s Alfred is the true MVP, making me tear up two or three times. (Would it be ridiculous to campaign for him to get a third Best Supporting Actor Oscar?) This is not to say that Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and company are not good; it’s just that Caine gave a performance that is far and away the best in the film. It was nice, however, to see Ben Mendelsohn and Burn Gorman, two of my favorite Australian and British actors (respectively), playing baddies with such abandon. I don’t really want to dissect the TDKR plot, so I will simply say that my biggest complaint was that there were a few too many unnecessary characters and subplots. (Most glaringly, Juno Temple’s character was 100% pointless.) You should see TDKR because Christopher Nolan is clearly one of the best directors working today. Don’t expect a miracle, though. (Also, try not to think of the Aurora shooting – it came to mind when I was watching and made me feel a bit ill at ease.)
Premium Rush. Directed by David Koepp. It’s pretty obvious that Premium Rush is not based upon the most original movie concept ever thought up (the similarity to Quicksilver has been pointed out by many reviewers), but it was entertaining nonetheless. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been building up the leading man phase of his career over the last few years, showing his willingness to explore more physical roles in Inception and The Dark Knight Rises. His commitment to this project is commendable; all of that leg-pumping must have been exhausting! (The stunt work must have been tough too.) The other actor holding up his end of the movie bargain is Michael Shannon. As Manohla Dargis wrote in her New York Times review of Premium Rush, Shannon has “grabbed the Crazy Man baton from Christopher Walken,” making his Bobby Monday character memorably nutty by playing him with real gusto. Shannon is more than worth the price of admission, although Gordon-Levitt is a very likeable star and the biking scenes give the movie plenty of excitement.
Prometheus. Directed by Ridley Scott. One of the more overhyped films of the past summer, Prometheus suffers from a predictable screenplay and mediocre dialogue. The film’s main saving grace is the casting of the two main characters. Michael Fassbender is fascinating as David, a robot whose motives are, to put it mildly, not totally kosher. I quite liked Noomi Rapace as protagonist Elizabeth Shaw, a supposedly Scottish character who still retains Rapace’s Swedish accent (from what I could tell, anyway). Rapace gets through her do-it-yourself C-section with as much dignity as possible, so for that scene alone she would earn my respect. The rest of the cast isn’t nearly as interesting: Charlize Theron and Idris Elba have stock authority-figure personalities; Guy Pearce has too few scenes in which to show off his old-age makeup; Logan Marshall-Green is just plain boring; none of the other actors have enough time to develop. I wish I had been able to see Prometheus in IMAX, since I would have been able to appreciate the cinematography and special effects to a greater degree.
Ruby Sparks. Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. I feel like I’m one of the few people who didn’t like Ruby Sparks. I imagine most fans’ responses to me would be that I “didn’t get it.” Similar to how I felt about another recent film I saw, Blue Velvet, I “got” Ruby Sparks but I didn’t like what I got. Paul Dano can be a terrific supporting actor – see The Ballad of Jack and Rose, Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood – but he doesn’t cut it as a leading man, at least not with this material. Zoe Kazan, his real-life girlfriend, plays Ruby but also wrote the screenplay; grandfather Elia she is certainly not. Ruby is an incredibly annoying creation and I have little sympathy for her or Dano’s beleaguered character Calvin. I never got a feeling of “romance” out of them or the film. Even with some vaguely charming performances by Chris Messina, Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas, I could not get over how much I disliked Dano and Kazan. They are supposed to be the beating heart of the movie but all I could feel were dull thuds. The end of the film is intended to provide some kind of sweet closure and sense of renewal, but I thought to myself, Why should I care?
Snow White and the Huntsman. Directed by Rupert Sanders. Perhaps I should have seen it sooner than I did, which was at the end of July. When I was on vacation in upstate New York, I went to a small-town theater that unfortunately showed Snow White out of focus and with the volume too low until halfway through the movie. Consequently, the plot and characters were hard to follow and/or recognize. It’s an especial shame since I would have liked to see Charlize Theron’s beautiful Colleen Atwood costumes and Chris Hemsworth’s handsome face with sharp clarity. Performance-wise, Theron and Hemsworth were decent and I suppose Kristen Stewart wasn’t terrible, although I realize that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. I saw the film after the Stewart-Sanders affair came to light, so I couldn’t completely remove that real-life connection from my viewing experience. I guess whenever the movie is on HBO or Starz, I’ll check it out again and see if it improves when seen the normal way. (P.S. The song that plays in the ending credits, “Breath of Life” by Florence + The Machine, is fantastic.)