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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

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Brick: when his ex-girlfriend goes missing, a teenager goes prodding around in his school’s underbelly to try to find some answers. Given the high school setting and the film’s leanings towards a Noir detective story – where everything down to the dialogue & clothing of feels old-timey – you don’t really get many films with such a uniquely stamped style and feel. Borrowing so heavily from the Noir genre starts off quite refreshing, but becomes borderline tedious and annoying by the end – it’s also the film’s biggest downfall that anybody remotely familiar with the genre will see the major twist way, way before it’s revealed. The olde vernacular and slang-heavy dialogue also flips and flops between cool and stupid, as some parts become hard to follow, given the speed of delivery and unfamiliar phrasings. The adherence to Noir also means that the characters are simply drawn – one-dimensional – and overly familiar. The film’s stupendously shot: light in particular is used superbly throughout to add crazy good detail, depth and subliminal characterisation – especially during the indoor scenes. It’s also full of nice little touches, details and tricks that raise it above your average genre rip-off picture. As a crime story Brick pretty good, but it’s a film that is 100% defined  as a modern take on 60-year-old conventions: sure it’s unique, stylish, funny and entertaining, but it’s also predictable, clichéd and full of stock characters because of its rigid adherence to the Noir genre. The positives do outweigh the trappings, making Brick worth a watch.

Score: 7/10

Looper: when time-travel is invented the mafia use it to send people back in time to be killed by hitmen called ‘Loopers’. The first 30 minutes of Looper is a stunning, high-concept, fast-paced, interesting sci-fi/physics thriller; last 15 minutes is an action-packed, satisfying finale; the problem lies in the middle hour, which is a bog-standard – stretched-out – farmyard drama, where any notion of sci-fi takes a back seat. The future is sensibly crafted, rooted in today’s world but with more decay/poverty – the setting, technology and small details are great at fleshing out the era. Not unlike Brick, there’s a bit of a retro/Noir vibe running through the props, locations, names etc. JGL absolutely steals the show, not only with a solid performance, but by convincingly echoing the mannerisms of a young Bruce Willis – even if the make-up looked way more like Buster Keaton. For a while, I thought that Looper was going to out-do Primer, but it went off-track for far too long. There’s no arguing that there’s a great concept at the heart of the movie, however it feels like the balance between sci-fi and drama had been made less even in order to widen the film’s appeal. Would have been an unbeatable 80/90-minute hard sci-fi film, but at 2 hours it feels unnecessarily long.

Score: 5.5/10

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!!!

50/50: a healthy 27-year-old is diagnosed with a rare spinal cancer, and we follow him through the ordeal. This is a difficult film to fairly review because it was pitched through the trailers / posters as a Rogen-esque comedy; however, it’s actually pretty intense, and the serious stuff far, far outweighs the lolz. I guess there’s a zaror to walk between giving cancer enough gravitas and trivialising it, but at least sell it as a drama – like Adam. With this in mind the film puts you through half a dozen or so ridiculously emotional beatings through the various stages of the illness. The cast are very strong; J.G.L. is a powerhouse – arguably his best performance, Rogen reels in his comedy schtick; BDH puts in a respectable short shift as the girlfriend, and although Kendrick can’t quite keep up, my mind was full of dirty thoughts when she was on screen anyway. 50/50 is serious, it’s dramatic, it’s touching, and it’s nothing short of an emotional smackdown. It also has a little bit of funny, but had I known what I was in for I’d have waited for DVD (and cried like a bitch in private).

Score: 5/10

Inception: Follows Dom Cob – a man who can enter your mind in the dream state and steal your deepest thoughts & secrets – on his last mission that could finally get him back to his family. The first thing you realise about inception is how original, visionary and well thought out the story is, then worry about how good the film would have to be to pull it all off. Despite the elaborate plot and timelines it’s explained well enough to be understood first time round (if you pay attention), but is still complex and smart enough to be appreciated on multiple viewings. Nolan brings out the best in his outstanding, but not too obvious, ensemble: especially Di Caprio, Cotillard, Levitt, Watanabe & Hardy who all step up and do justice to the great premise. The special effects department deserve a year off after this, and Hans Zimmer’s modern score takes the last 30 minutes to a whole new level. Page is only OK and more could have been made about the infinite possibilities of the dreams but other than that, no real complaints. There’s subtle gestures towards Matrix, 2001, classic Bond, and a whole bunch of crime / noir films. Inception is an iconic, truly original, mind-bending film that has it all, and breathes new life into Sci-Fi, which is currently plagued with sequels & re-makes. My main concern is that this opus will be near-impossible to top, by Nolan, or anyone else. Stunning cinema that surpasses its own massive hype and is easily film of the year.

Score: 9.5/10

The Lookout: a brain-damaged guy gets taken advantage of because of his part-time job in a bank. Not just any bank though, the lamest bank in history with huge windows, a remote location and high-risk employees! The natural dialogue made everyone seem quite normal and believable, with the exception of ‘Bone’, who looked like a tardy Agent Smith from the Matrix. Both Levitt and Daniels do a fairly decent job with their difficult characters. The Vigilante memory loss section at the end is when the film really kicks in to gear (like a ‘Diet Memento’) but was too little too late for me, and the action scenes aren’t well-edited. It’s an OK film but with lots of dubious aspects: like how despite causing a fatal car crash, and having brain damage, Chris Pratt is allowed to drive!? The only thing the film really taught me was that money is power… pretty deep stuff.

Score: 5/10