The Dark Knight Rises – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman

Synopsis: It almost seems ridiculous to write a synopsis for the most anticipated film of the blockbuster season, but here it goes.   The final chapter in Nolan’s Batman trilogy, the film is set eight years after the events of the Dark Knight.   Bruce Wayne became a recluse, and retired his masked alter ego.   Gotham City is in an era of peace, but all that is set to be ruined by Bane, a character ex-communicated from the League of Shadows.   All this, and many subplots, result in Batman being needed once again.

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30 Day Film Challenge Day 17 – Your Favorite Drama Film

Film Nerd’s Choice: The Shawshank Redemption

Review:

Director: Frank Darabont

Cast: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, Gil Bellows

Synopsis: Andy Dufresne is convicted of the murder of his wife and her lover and sentenced to life imprisonment at Shawshank prison.  He insists throughout the film that he is innocent.   Despite a rough start, particularly concerning his treatment from other inmates, he starts spreading a very dangerous message… one of hope.   Based on a story  written by Stephen King.

 

As I sit down to write this, I looked at the IMDB entry for this film and was delighted to see that it currently is the top rated film on the entire site.   For me there is little wonder as to why this is so.   This is the King adaptation for which Darabont will be best remembered (despite a strong film being made in that collaboration for The Green Mile).   Though I would not claim that this is necessarily a feel good movie… some of the drama is a bit too hard-edged for that definition… it is perhaps the most inspirational film I have ever seen.

Andy Dufresne is a very interesting character, and far from the typical lead role type.   He flatly denies his guilt despite evidence mounted against him.   He is often dour, and very quietly spoken.   Despite these apparent setbacks, traits that make him a target on the inside, he proves himself a fiercely intelligent man.   It is this element of his personality that not only wins him the respect of fellow inmates, but crucially also the respect of the guards and warden.   It is these connections that allow him a certain level of liberty, yet no one can guess to what ends he will take these freedoms.

The other significant lead character is Freeman’s “Red”.   The character in the novel was a red-headed Irishman, so there was originally some question as to the casting of clearly not Irish Freeman.   His performance, as is often the case, is enough to silence any critic.   He is our narrator for the events on-screen.   He is a well-chosen narrator, as he is close to Dufresne, and yet is unable to grasp all his motives until the final glorious minutes of the film.   He is also apt as a narrator, as a man who has been in prison since his youth, he is world-weary and wise to the system, able to give the audience a peek at the psychology of such men.   This is also crucial to his own character’s story arc as well.

For a film that has such recognition, I still feel it is criminally under-seen.   Many a friend and colleague have I mentioned this film to and heard “I have been meaning to see that”, or, even worse, a blank stare.   This is a film to make grown men cry and cheer in equal measure.   There is something in it for everyone, being a film that narrows down what truly is important in life.   It raises the question to those of us who consider ourselves free, do we truly appreciate what we have??

5 stars out of 5

 

The Shawshank Redemption on IMDB

The Shawshank Redemption on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0RZNIFZxoY]

 

30 Day Film Challenge Day 11 – A Film By Your Favorite Director

Film Nerd’s Choice: Glory

Rationale:

I have made no secret in the history of posting on this site that I am a particular fan of the director Edward Zwick.   I have even at one point dedicated a week’s worth of reviews entirely based on his output.   I had actually seen films of his before alighting upon Glory, notably Courage Under Fire.   However it was with Glory that I began researching and following his career with interest.   He has a capacity for introducing viewers to lesser known stories within the context of larger conflicts.

Specifically with Glory he highlight’s the plight of the first African-American regiment of troops assembled during the American Civil War.   It is not just a story about the leaps forward such an effort made, but the continuing fight for respect needed to even get this regiment on the battlefield.   It features some powerhouse performances, particularly from ever-amazing Morgan Freeman, and a Best Supporting Actor Oscar turn from Denzel Washington.

For my full Glory review previously posted, please click here.

Red – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Robert Schwenke

Cast: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Mary Louise Parker, Karl Urban, Richard Dreyfuss, Brian Cox, Julian McMahon

Synopsis: Frank Moses (Willis) is a retired man whose ordinary days are punctuated by phone calls to his case officer Sarah (Parker) at pensioner services.   However, there is much more to Moses, being a former CIA agent, labelled RED (Retired, Extremely Dangerous).   When the CIA seeks to kill him to prevent the release of secrets he knows, he pulls together a group of his old colleagues (and Sarah) to get to the truth.

 

A review by Film Nerd.

There are those that suffer from comic book and graphic novel adaptations, and there are those that camp out at the cinema for the next release.   I am firmly in the latter camp, as many of my recent review would attest.   I am delighted to report that this is a good all round action film, and its comic book origins will not hinder enjoyment for the uninitiated.

This is unashamedly a popcorn flick.   Big explosions, frenetic action scenes, and everything served with a great big dollop of tongue in cheek.   Willis is in fine form, doing what he has been doing so well since the 80s.   As he also proved in Die Hard 4.0, he has not lost his edge, and paired with the right script his performances can be solid gold.   Freeman gets surprisingly little air time, but with a cast like this, someone had to get the short straw.   Malkovich is delightfully nuts, playing an agent whose mind is clearly addled by years of LSD.   Karl Urban is the agent on their trail, and after Lord of the Rings and Star Trek, he really is moving from strength to strength.   But really, if you have seen the trailer, there is one thing you are watching this movie for.   Helen Mirren firing an assortment of semi-automatic weapons.   Yes, Her Majesty is packing heat, and she is coming to get you!!

The action is well paced, the comic timing spot on.   Yet on top of all this, the leads all get fairly decent story arcs, which is not so common for a film like this.   Most surprising in this film is the romance between Frank and Sarah.   Often romance in this setting feels tacked on, and purely there for guys to convince their girlfriends to join them at the cinema.   Parker’s character is however neither a screaming damsel in distress, or an uber-hot action babe that could serve Frank his arse for breakfast.   She is just a normal woman, a product of the modern era, that is bored with her life, and Frank provides a change to her dull routine.   She embodies that guilty pleasure that a subset of the audience would feel if their own lives could be filled with so much action.   On the power of that performance alone, I am now very keen to investigate her highly regarded television series Weeds.

This fi9lm will not change your life, but it will give you entertainment.   As I said before, it is unashamedly a popcorn flick.   So grab a box of the salted and buttered, wash it down with a slurpy and don’t forget your choc-top either!!

4 stars (out of a possible 5)

 

Red on IMDB

Red on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayFfMfN5AvE]

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – Alan Rickman Week

Director: Kevin Reynolds

Cast: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Alan Rickman, Christian Slater, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

Synopsis: Almost two decades before Rusty pulled on the tights for a more realistic interpretation, Kevin Costner grabbed a bow to become the most legendary of archer’s.    The film has perhaps been more recognised as the source material for Mel Brooks’ film Robin Hood: Men In Tights.    All together now… “Unlike some Robin Hoods, I speak with an English accent!”

A review by Film Nerd.

I re-watched this film over the weekend with Bride of Film Nerd, who had never previously seen it.   Being the comedy fan that she is, though, it was amusing to hear her get mixed up between Blinkin and Duncan.   So yes, I introduced her to the source material that Mel Brooks so successfully lampooned.   I think that satire of the film is now more prominent in public memory than the film itself, and though the satire is fantastic, it is easy to forget how entertaining the original is.

Not to say it is not without flaws.   Some of the plotting is ridiculous, and the script is often laughable.   But the cast actually kind of seem to know this, and they deliver some more absurd lines with almost a sly nod to the audience that they are having fun with it.   Costner is very guilty of this, playing his Robin as a prodigal rebellious son type, almost in the frat boy mould.   Yet given that frat boys can be considered very anti-establishment, for Robin Hood, this is quite appropriate.   Morgan Freeman is always on form in whatever role, so his Azeem brings some gravitas to proceedings, but is also abl to introduce his own sly humour, being in a perfect position to point out the ridiculous habits in Western attitudes and rituals.   For me though, the film does belong to Rickman, so much so that thinking of this villain role alongside Hans Gruber was all I needed to initiate Alan Rickman week.   His sheriff of Nottingham is delightfully OTT, making full use of his lanky frame and unique vocal inflections.   Many times have I personally quoted his line “I’m gonna cut your heart out with a SPOOOON”.

This film cannot be considered history, it cannot be considered a direct interpretation of myth, it can’t even be considered as authentically English, as the hollywood gleam to it is clear, even forgetting Costner’s accent.   But it is good, escapist fun, with enough drama to keep the plot moving, yet with a regular element of tongue in cheek preventing it from ever getting heavy.   Sure, it was ripe for satire, but where Mel Brooks is concerned, wasn’t Star Wars also just as ripe??

4 stars (out of a possible 5)

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves on IMDB

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCxzyVfAz3E]

Glory (1989)

Director: Edward Zwick

Cast: Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes, Denzel Washington, Jihmi Kennedy, Andre Braugher, Bob Gunton

Synopsis: This film represents the true story of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Broderick), commander of the first regiment of “colored soldiers” during the American civil war.   Despite his rank, he is fighting the inexperience of his youth, as well as the trauma from what he has already seen on the battlefield.   As such, he remains distant and aloof from his men, but through them he learns his own strength.

A review by Film Nerd.

Perhaps reviewing the Zwick films in the order that I saw them may prove an injustice, as for me this is the absolute best of his films.   As such, subsequent reviews, through generally good, will not be quite as glowing as this one.   It has that perfect combination of a talented director, pitch perfect cast, and bringing to light a story well worth being told and perpetuated.

It is an interesting plot device that throughout Broderick is narrating from Shaw’s own letters home to his family.   It gives a depth to the performance that indicates that despite artistic license, Shaw’s own character arc clearly follows that which is observed on-screen.   It also reflects the fact that the speech used by Broderick in the role does reflect Shaw’s own writing style.   It may be a surprise to see Ferris Bueller himself, eternally young, in this role, but it is clear that Shaw was a young commander, making the casting appropriate, and Broderick infuses it with just the right level of vulnerability.

This is more than Shaw’s story, however.   It is also about the bravery and the internal conflicts of a down-trodden society.   We follow the exploits of four soldiers specifically, observing how different background respond to the conflict.   First there is young Jupiter Sharts (Kennedy), full of youthful optimism and naivety.    Then there is Thomas Searles (Braugher), who grew up an educated servant of Shaw’s family, a background that separates him from his colleagues.   Morgan Freeman, always a powerful on-screen presence, represents and older perspective as Sergent Rawlins, with a clear serenity developed through years of dealing with hardship.   For this company though, the most powerful performance belongs to Washington as Private Trip.   He is a young man full of anger, ready to lash out at his colleagues and his oppressors alike.   He does not respond well to authority, becoming a thorn in Shaw’s side   But his skill and drive are clear, and this is a Best Supporting Actor Oscar-winning performance well deserving of such accolades.

There are a few flaws, in pacing, and sometimes the tone does seem to jar with the events at hand.   These are minor criticisms though, given the wealth of great story and great performances on display here.   This is an absolute must see film.

5 stars (out of a possible 5)

Glory on IMDB

Glory on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XuUGD7aa3E]