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Out of the Furnace - Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Tom Bower, Zoë Saldana, Sam Shepard

Out of the Furnace: when his kid brother disappears after getting involved in redneck bare-knuckle boxing, his stoic brother takes the law into his own hands. The acting is nothing short of stupendous; everyone is in full on beast mode; although Casey Affleck does his trademark mumbling incoherency shtick – which is becoming pretty tiresome / irksome. Despite the array of colossal performances topped by Bale and Harrelson, the film is completely marred by a time-bendingly-slow pace, which makes it seem like a 4-hour affair. It’d be like watching Aryton Senna do a Formula 1 circuit in on a mobility scooter. When you’re filling an already lengthy movie with unnecessarily long aerial takes of a car driving through woods, and a time-consuming barely relevant sub-plots (like drink driving) – your editor needs to take a running jump. As the buildup to the finale is so agonisingly drawn out, the end – although satisfying – is ultimately underwhelming. Despite being a more grim version of the boxing sub-plot from Snatch, this it’s a gritty portrayal of a broken American steeltown community in decline. A very Eastwoodian sleeper, but only because it makes you want to sleep…

Score: 5/10

 

Dark Knight Trilogy Batman Begins The Dark Knight The Dark Knight RisesWhat makes a movie going experience unique? In the age of Blu Rays / high-definition torrents, and bargainous HDTVs / home cinema kits it’s becoming easier and more affordable to get a totally immersive film-viewing experience at home. To combat this and keep the footfall in the foyers cinemas are having to go above and beyond the standard experience. My local independent – Aberdeen’s cherished ‘Belmont Cinema‘ – has just screened back-to-back showings of the Dark Knight trilogy (all 7hrs 34min!), and although you can pick up the box set for under £30, the event was packed full of things that no amount of money or equipment can replicate.

The Dark Knight Trology Cast Harvey Dent Bane Gordon Ra's al Ghul Batman Catwoman Scarecrow JokerWith films this big there’s absolutely no denying that they’re best viewed in a proper auditorium. Christopher Nolan’s unmistakable eye-opening wide-angle style which is intentionally shot on celluloid for maximum effect; Wally Pfister’s I-MAX cinematography, Hanz Zimmer‘s deep brassy orchestrated scores, the pounding sound effects & sound editing, million dollar stunts, props and CGI… Sure, they all look fantastic on Blu Ray, but when you see them thrown up on a cinema screen and pumped out through a Dolby SR amp/speaker kit – the effect is nothing short of phenomenal.

DARK KNIGHT COSPLAY COSTUMES, CATWOMAN BATMAN, BRUCE WAYNE, Selina Kyle, The Cat

Batman and Catwoman: guardians of… the auditorium!

Beyond mere technical details there was an atmosphere in the theater that you don’t see often, and definitely couldn’t replicate at home: staff and punters dressing up as their favourite characters from the series (and further back down the Batman franchise), hardcore comic fans ‘nerding out’ in the foyers, people shouting out the big lines of dialogue – and particularly in the first two movies – there’s a lot of humour that really falls flat when you watch it on your own.

Add to this that the staff had gone out of their way to ‘make a day of it’, including an in-character Batman – with the voice – for the duration, special food/drinks promos, cosplay competition, a riddler quiz with awesome prizes, and giving everyone a goodie bag on the way out – it really did make the experience feel unique, and elevated it far beyond the scope of any regular visit to the movies. It also made the 1pm-10pm shift fly by.

DARK KNIGHT COSPLAY COSTUMES, THE JOKER, POISON IVY, HARLEY QUINN, Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel, Dr. Pamela Lillian IsleyI believe that the variety and novelty of screenings and events like this will become a larger part of remaining cinema’s revenue, and Aberdeen’s Belmont Cinema is putting a lot of effort in to such programming. At Christmas there was a festive Die Hard screening, a 90s Action Classics season has just wrapped up (Matrix, Total, Recall Con-Air…) and coming up there’s a special screening of the notorious ‘The Room‘, a Wes Anderson retrospective, and one-off re-releases of cult cinema favourites such as The Princess Bride and the ABCs of Death – to name but a few!

Seeing the films together in one sitting also helps pull the story together, with a lot of detail slipping through the cracks of the three, and four year gaps in theatrical releases. More than anything, it’s a glowing testament to Nolan as a director: he has made three very individual, stand-alone movies that will appeal to general punters, whilst having enough detail and plot threads to make them a proper trilogy, AND appease hardened Batman fanboys.

DARK KNIGHT COSPLAY COSTUMES The Joker, Harley Quinn, Henri Ducard, Ra's al Ghul, Catwoman, Batman The Riddler, Robin

The staff really made the day, and led by example with their awesome costumes.

REVIEWS

Batman Begins (Review) – perhaps a little harsh on it, but the one that benefited the most from a proper theatrical viewing. It’s funnier with a crowd, and the ‘filler’ is more necessary when viewed as part of the entire trilogy. Overall, it’s an interesting examination of fear – last-minute cameo from Katie Holme’s nipples. Trilogy score: 7/10

The Dark Knight (Review) – the closest thing to a Bond film that Nolan has done. Travel, big stunts, cooler gadgets (and quips about them), peril, awesome villain – it feels in parts like Nolan was using this as a CV. SOMEONE PLEASE LET HIM DIRECT A BOND FILM!! Still awesome. Trilogy Score: 8.5/10

The Dark Knight Rises (Review) – less action, and a whole lot of plot to wrap up the trilogy. Still massive voice issues with Bane – I think my biggest gripe is that unlike the other sound like their being recorded on set, Bane’s booms from all speakers – giving him a bizarre omnipotence. The tone and accent are far too silly for such a bad badass. Still, great way to cap off one of cinema’s best Trilogies. Trilogy Score: 7.5/10

The Dark Knight Rises: eight years after The Joker’s antics Batman faces his latest, and toughest opponent – Bane. The tone straddles the story-driven Batman Begins, and the action/spectacle of The Dark Knight. Rises also functions surprisingly well as both a stand-alone movie, and trilogy wrap up: epitomised by Scarecrow, who appears, but isn’t dwelled on. The action set pieces are great (especially the Police Vs Goons fight!!) and when it’s matched with such slick visuals and the booming post-Inception soundtrack – it’s an unbeatable force. Of the three new characters, JGL does the most impressing, although it’s mostly because of the other two’s costumes: masking a performer like Hardy, reducing him to just eyes is nothing short of a travesty, and Hathaway amounts to little more than her catsuit, merely serving as a story catalyst. All other performances are rock-solid across the board – particularly Caine, who I’ve rarely enjoyed, but was surprisingly emotive in this. The biggest pain in my ass was the unresolved voice issues with Batman in costume, hospitalised Gordon being too gravelly to fully understand, as well as Bane whose voice is both hard to tune in to and so ridiculous that it wouldn’t be out-of-place in a South Park episode. I also felt that the duality between Bane and B Wayne was interesting, but even as someone who has never read the comics – it could probably have been explored further. What’s impressed me most about the trilogy is the dedication to keeping everything grounded and realistic – even with the list of ‘superhero’-style of characters, there’s always an explanation and it always feels plausible. I’ll take my hat off to Nolan, who has made yet another smart, sophisticated film out of ‘superheroes’ / comic book material – while keeping it accessible and enjoyable to all audiences.

Score: 7.5/10

MEOW!!!

The Fighter: Hollywood biopic about two half-brother boxers as they each try to make it to the professional level. You can’t mention The Fighter without focusing on the Award-busting cast: Wahlberg’s humble performance is somewhat overlooked with all the ‘big acting’ around him, but he’s at the very top of his game here; Bale and Leo trump the ‘crazy good’ pile with larger than life characters; and if you need a respectable actress that gets down to her knickers there can only be… Amy Adams, duh! It’s technically sweet, the sound is great for a boxing movie and the TV effects on the 1990s fights make it more believable and documentary-esque. What gets you most is the story, and the fact that it’s real; there’s more drama outside the ring and with a cast of explosive, rounded, characters like this my only complaint is that, if anything, there are too many of them – biggest family ever! Because of the territory, there’s definitely an element of running through the sports movie checklist, (“right, that box is ticked, next!”) after every fight, argument or pivotal scene. Although it tugs at the heart-strings with shameless precision through the family story, and despite being over-dramatic at times, The Fighter totally did it for me. Cracking sport’s / boxing film.

Score: 8/10

The Dark Knight: (Blu Ray) Opens up with one of the best bank jobs in history and almost everything going forward is first class; especially the story, enemies, drama and action – it’s all just so epic. Heath Ledger’s absolutely on fire as the anarchist Joker, genuinely looking insane – watching his lips, tongue and ticks should freak anyone out – and he nails the offbeat humour with conviction to spare. Bale continues to make Bruce/Batman believable as the human-turn-superhero. Katie Holmes magically transforms into Maggie Gyllenhaal; no complaints from this reviewer. Eckhart’s great, despite only being able to half-act in the last hour. Lt. Gordon wins my ‘Worst husband ever’ award, no contest. Downsides: it’s a tad long and has lots crammed in (the last half hour could have been in a third movie, and a great posthumous send-off to Ledger?), Batman’s voice is ridiculous and Two-Face / Dawes / Scarecrow don’t get nearly enough screen time. The picture’s great with fantastic detail and stunning aerial shots, but once again the bombastic sound dominates the disc – every gunshot, explosion & Batmobile ride rocks you to the bone. The constant thrills and spills topped off with slick visuals and a great cast make The Dark Knight far superior to the strung-out character study of Wayne that was ‘Batman Begins’. With a final movie just being announced I’m drooling at the prospect, although I don’t fancy the chances of it topping this.

Score: 8/10

Batman Begins: (Blu Ray) Going to be controversial and say that this one bored the pants off of me. Because it’s a re-boot it’s laden with backstory and takes about 40 minutes before it gets going. Caine & Freeman are too safely cast and the so-called ‘jokes’ all fall flat, landing somewhere between ‘terrible’ and ‘was that supposed to be funny?’ For the positives it definitely makes batman cool and scary again – miles away from the campy original or souped up 90s movies. Gotham’s got a nice hint of Metropolis about it. The picture is very dark, so it doesn’t blow you away. On the other hand, the sound will as it dominates all speakers, especially the Bass – fans should get the BD. Overall it’s too long, quite boring and Wayne has no really cool enemies. It does tee-up the Dark Knight well though…

Score: 4.5/10