Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

Decent men in an indecent world.

In their ivory towers, the movie hotshots are trying to predict the Next Big Thing. Lord of the Rings slipped under the radar; who saw The matrix coming, or Star Wars for that matter?

Ignoring The Rings for a moment, I've never been a part of an event movie. At the time it didn't suprise me that LOTR was packing cinemas - because, thats what always happens, right?

The Dark Knight is an event

There was a queue out the entrance and around the building. The cinema was full, completely full. There were kids, adults, men, women; some sporting their Batman T-shirts, the rest just idle fans. This never happens at our cinema - there are only 60 seats on the largest screen, and its rare more than ten of them are filled. There's no slant on the chairs - its just an average size dark room with chairs on the floor.

As if I wasn't already impressed, they then proceeded to watch the entire film in silence - save the odd nervous giggle at the Joker's quips. No rustling sweets, misbehaving kids or chatter.

That's because The Dark Knight is an event movie. There was something special in the air. Me and my friends have been feeling it for months - initially, I put it down to just plain ole excitement. Friend 3 loves superhero movies; I'm getting into graphic novels, but especially Batman (and Green Arrow, but thats beside the point); Friend 5 loves Christian Bale, and Friend 4 was just excited. But when the trailers started appearing, I was frothing more than anything and bouncing like they'd just announced the Hobbit or something.

For one thing, it's blowing up New York again. Movies used to do that all the time, and then a certain real life event came along and did it properly. Suddenly, Towering Inferno was out of fashion, Spiderman and Men in Black 2 were respectfully tweaking their explosive climaxes, and United 93 and World Trade Center entered pre-production. Film will never be the same again - at least not for a while - because Die-Hard-style building explosions are no longer blockbuster fun, its part of the public consciousness. Even me, who deals with real world tragedy by ignoring it, who lives in England away from the epicenter, who lost no one and knows no one who did, even I feel it as a part of my life - because like hiding from Daleks behind the sofa, or queueing for hours to see Star Wars, its part of the folk memory of our times.

So even though nothing was said, I could feel it in the room. Watching Gotham burn was weird because its the first time any city has been attacked this gleefully on screen Since. At the same time, the shaky Joker camera footage, the dark colours, the downbeat tone showed that something has changed in the blowing-shit-up genre. The same can be said of the hostage situations - the "war on Terror" thang has made these real for us as well.

We also had to contend with the ghost of Heath Ledger who is - haven't you heard? - dead, apparently. Again, nothing was said - as if it needed to be, with such a focus in every Dark Knight related piece. But that too leant the film yet another edge and importance.

Lets get this out of the way - he was fantastic, mindblowingly so. But if he gets the Oscar it will be a travesty of justice. Why? Can you remember the last time an actor won an award for a *shudder* superhero movie? That's because it doesn't happen. They're not "real films" at all. Now you can argue that there's never been a superhero film this good; but lets be honest. Hollywood loves sentiment. And if he wins the award, it'll be for being dead. I'm not saying he doesn't deserve the Oscar - he is, as I said, all kinds of fantastic. But under normal circumstances, he wouldn't stand a chance. It'll just prove what a screwed up, biased and hypocritical affair the whole Oscar lark is.

This film was already special - not on its own merits, but the poignancy of real world things it reflected. But thank goodness it was brilliant into the bargain.

Bale. Caine. Oldman. Freeman. Eckhart. Gyllenhall...erm, who have I forgotten - Ledger, of course. And of the less well knowns, we got a bit more Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow, and ex-Master Eric Roberts as a mafiosi. Oh, and William Fitchner, who's one of those "where do I recognise?" guys, who I think has a wonderful face.

All wonderful. One flaw of the movies is Batman isn't interesting - he's a lot more fun when he's Bruce Wayne (the opposite of the comics). One of the things that makes this film better than any other super-flick is his backup. Lucius, Alfred, Gordon and (here) Dent are all on his side, giving a range of character interaction and scheming.

In the previous film, he was just fighting the scum - here, despite the presence of two super-villains, the same fight against mafia corruption or police informants keeps it grounded in reality.

I particularly loved the Batman - Harvey Dent relationship. Both characters are doing the same thing in different ways - cleaning the streets, one legally, and one dirty. But both are inspired by the other's efforts. It makes for an interesting dynamic, especially with Rachel in the middle. Rachel isn't given anything to do, but Maggie puts in a much better performance than Katie Holmes did last year. She was just adorably insipid. And she's also responsible for a scene that, given a few months, could be one of my favourites ever (to enter spoilerdom, her bravery in hoping that Batman will rescue her date first when both assume he's going to save her - and her wonderful reaction when she realises he isn't. Wow, what a brainjob. It reminds me of a scene in Count of Monte Cristo. I like it when cinema gets cruel.)

Put Gordon in, and you've got a wonderful trio of heroes. I've always thought Gary Oldman's contribution turned him into maybe the biggest hero of both movies. He's helping in the ordinary way he can, and it suprised me how much I cared for him every time he got into danger. Its always nice to see him playing a good guy - in an alternate universe, he'd doubtless be taking on the giggling psycho role instead. Which I'm sure he'd do admirably, but as a "real actor" his reactions are endlessly watchable. Nice to look at too.

But its all about the direction, really - Nolan gives the whole franchise a sense of dignity and subtlety. Obvious scenes are cut short or missing, suggested by slight reactions. Fight sequences are rooted in dialogue and plot.
That man knows how to make a film. Watch the direction of Two Face - the final confrontation, the ugly half is shadowed to make him a diseased man in a real situation, to make the tension more real. Watch the times when his head is turned one way or another. Its wonderful (and justabout makes up for the fact that Two Face really isn't as interesting as Harvey was. Aaron Eckhart has this wonderfully RobertRedfordish look. Clean shaven, blonde hair - like Redford, he's made for playing decent, upstanding Americans. I didn't buy his emotional transformation, and I wish his makeup had been a little less extreme - he's a very pretty person, and it would have been better had they concentrated on making his honest beauty completely warped and twisted rather than replacing half his head with Imoteph The Mummy. It could have been more devastating - it was only the reactions of the other characters which cemented what a total tragedy his loss was.)
The final Joker scene, hanging upsidedown but with the camera the wrong way up, swaying in the light and the wind is one of the most inspired pieces of direction - cemented of course, by a terrifically freaky piece of acting.
Its cunningly avoided a 15 too. There are a dozen incidents which, with the addition of a bit of blood, would nudge it into a higher catagory. I've always had a lot of faith in the BBFC, but if this is a twelve then Ed Wood deserves an Oscar. Only some very creative cutting snuck it into a lower band - like prosecuting a mobster, when you know he's guilty but don't have the evidence to prove it; thus here, I could feel this film was meant to be a 15, even though it avoided any shots which would move it up.
My one criticism is I didn't know when it was going to end. This might seem mean, but I like to know how much further I've got to go. Even in offbeat, indie efforts, you can normally identify if you're in the climax, the buildup, the payoff. There were several moments when I felt the film was rounding to a conclusion - but then it started up again. I always find that unsettling.

And as usual, a trip to My Local Fleapit Cinema couldn't completely be without hitch - today, they had got their sound balance all wrong - the dialogue was frequently too quiet, drowned out by the music. Which is a pity, because whenever the thumping strings came in it felt intrusive. Shame, because the Zimmer-NewtonHoward team up creates some pieces of music I love - so it was a pity to hate them in context.

Anyway, that's that over - bring on film three! But if you think I'm kidding about the "special" thing, check out IMDb. Dark Knight is beating out Shawshank Redemption and The Godfather on the top 250. it won't last - big new films always jump onto the list then vanish. So even though I'm sure it'll eventually drop, that's one loud round of applause from the internet, for a film only out a few days. Check out the poll - 29.9% think its better than The Godfather, with a very very close 29.2% arguing its worse. I voted for Godfather, incidentally.

In other news, I've just finished reading "Force 10 from Navarone" the sequel to the novel which Guns of Navarone, one of me faves, was based on. It was great! Well, strictly, it wasn't - it was pure pulp, an above-par airport novel. But I loved it, and the novel was far less trashy than it could have been.

The surviving heroes of the first book are catapulted into yet another situation which requires random silent killings, manipulation, sabotage, betrayal, and it's every bit as morally bankrupt as the movie.

I loved the film for its characters - all present and correct - and particularly their silent interaction to resolve tense situations. You may recall the scene on the boat when they are boarded by German soldiers and wordlessly, after a few minutes, explode into violence. The book is stuffed with such scenes. Like the film, even though it looks and feels like a goodole Boy's Own romp, its not afraid to ask tricky questions and be bleak about the cost of war.

But I won't be watching the movie. The lack of the original cast has already killed the idea for me, and it looks like they've replaced Stavros with an American character played by Harrison Ford.

Hold the press. I take it back. Locations list: "Jersey, Channel Islands". I live in Guernsey, a slightly smaller island only 20 minutes away. Now that's more exciting, although I find it hard to tally the remote pine forests, relentless snow and harsh terrain with the glorified seaside resort across the water. A closer look at the list reveals they filmed in Yugoslavia and Montenegro - that must be the Yugoslavia bits then. But they can't have used it for Navarone, surely? the Malta location seems far more likely. So then what? The Italy scenes are more likely to be in one of the studios.

Nevertheless, that has piqued my interest. As has the presence of Paul Jerricho, who played a minor character I loved from 70's Doctor Who.

But the reviews suggest it's not quite as morally taut as the original - and the absence of Peck'n'Niven, not to mention cutting Stavrous entirely, means this is still a lost cause. Now, as for reading the Guns of Nav book, I'm very excited indeed - as soon as I find a copy, that is...

Oooh, and interesting trivia which I wondered about for the whole book. Mr MacLean wrote Force 10 as a sequel to the movie, not his original novel.


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