The Dark Knight Rises
The answer is neither a conclusive yea nor a definitive
nay. While this lavish closing chapter will certainly delight the Caped
dedicated fans, more casual viewers may find its 164-minute running time
bloated and unwieldy.
Set eight years after “The Dark Knight,” the latest adventure
finds Batman’s alter ego — billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne
(Christian Bale) — injured, exiled and grief-stricken. The events
of the previous film have not only deprived him of the company of his childhood
friend and love interest, Rachel Dawes, they’ve also made him an
enemy in the eyes of the police and the public at large.
Yet, inevitably, Wayne and his chiropteran persona find
themselves pulled out of retirement. Initially, that’s due to the arrival on the scene
of slippery cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) — a morally ambiguous
character out to pilfer Wayne’s jewels and flirt with him at the
But it’s the aptly named terrorist mastermind Bane (Tom Hardy) who
really forces Batman to don the cowl once more. In the face of his criminal
onslaught, the cops — led by jaded commissioner James Gordon (Gary
Oldman) — fall to pieces, despite the dedicated efforts of idealistic
officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
Hardy’s Bane, a worthy successor to Heath Ledger’s show-stealing
Joker in the previous movie, seeks to claim the city of Gotham on behalf
of “the people,” thus providing a violent fictional twist
on the real-life Occupy Wall Street movement.
Although Nolan’s visual style favours the bombastic set piece, his
screenplay evinces a surprising amount of humanity and emotion. Especially
so as it shows us the protagonist’s touching relationship with long-serving
butler Alfred (Michael Caine) who acted as a father figure to the young
lad after Wayne’s parents were murdered.
These personal touches accompany a message about self-sacrifice
that makes more explicit than ever the altruism that has always characterized
Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s comic-book creation — who made his debut
on the printed page in 1939. Batman’s rejection of anger and revenge — as
well as his refusal to employ unnecessary violence in fighting crime — are
also emphasized. So too, of course, is his desire to do good.
Nonetheless, the bone-breaking nature of the mayhem on
display excludes the youngest batfans, who would also likely find their
attention spans taxed by the lengthy proceedings. Some parents may, however,
Dark Knight Rises” acceptable fare for older adolescents.
The film contains frequent and intense action violence,
including gunplay, an implied nonmarital encounter, a few uses of profanity
and some crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults.
The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents
strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under
To Rome With Love
NEW YORK (CNS) — With films set in London, Barcelona and Paris under
his belt, quintessential New Yorker Woody Allen extends his European tour
in To Rome With Love (Sony Classics). His farce follows various couples
around the Eternal City as they search for romance, happiness, and — all
too frequently — sin.
Writing, directing and acting, Allen spreads himself a bit
thin; his 43rd picture feels jumbled and rushed. However, there are flashes
of his vintage wit, and Rome, the real star of the movie, has never looked
better. Unfortunately, the central theme — guilt-free adultery — taints
the proceedings and bars full enjoyment.
To Rome With Love features a quartet of stories. The first
centres on Hayley (Alison Pill), an American student who, during a summer
abroad, falls for handsome lawyer Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti). Their
engagement brings Hayley’s parents, Phyllis (Judy Davis) and Jerry
(Allen), across the Atlantic for a sit-down with the future in-laws.
Encountering turbulence during the flight over, Jerry is
can’t unclench my fists when there’s turbulence,” he
tells Phyllis. “You know I’m an atheist.”
Michelangelo’s father, Giancarlo (Fabio Armiliato), is an undertaker
with a special talent: While in the shower, he sings like an opera star.
(Armiliato is a famous tenor in real life, and so fits the role perfectly.)
Jerry, a retired opera director, sees stars amid the soap bubbles, and
schemes to have Giancarlo hit the big time — even if it means carting
along a portable shower stall.
The second narrative features a honeymoon couple from the
provinces, Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) and Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi),
who decide to relocate to the capital for a fresh start. But circumstances
separate them just as they are due to meet Antonio’s relatives and
his future employer.
Antonio finds himself with sexy prostitute Anna (Penelope Cruz), and must
pass her off as his sweet, innocent wife to save face. Milly, on the other
hand, stumbles upon a film set and meets her movie-star idol, Luca Salta
(Antonio Albanese). The sleazy leading man seduces her, but not before
Anna has her way with Antonio.
In the film’s ever-so-brief flirtation with morality, the saintly
Milly admits it’s wrong to break her marriage vows, even with her
dream man. She wavers a moment, but quickly decides: What a great story
to tell her grandchildren one day!
Then there’s famous American architect John (Alec Baldwin)
who returns to Rome 30 years after a youthful sojourn there. He meets an
early version of himself in Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), and soon starts coaching
the lad in the art of seduction.
Though happy with his girlfriend Sally (Greta Gerwig), Jack
is tempted when Sally’s actress friend Monica (Ellen Page) arrives
from Hollywood. Sparks fly, and hearts are set to be broken.
The last — and best — of the plotlines concerns Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni), a perfectly ordinary Roman with a run-of-the-mill family and a humdrum job.
The Watch .
NEW YORK (CNS) — Director Akiva Schaffer’s comedy and science fiction mix The Watch (Fox) was originally titled Neighborhood Watch. But then real-life events intervened and gave us all the Trayvon Martin case to ponder.
The film contains a demeaning view of human sexuality, with
gratuitous nudity, fleeting but horrific gore, about a dozen uses of profanity
and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification
is O — morally offensive.
The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted.
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Step Up Revolution
NEW YORK (CNS) — One adage holds that it’s best to stick to
what you’re good at. It’s too bad screenwriter Amanda Brody
didn’t take that advice on board when writing Step Up Revolution
This fourth instalment of the steamy dance and romance franchise — which
began with 2006’s Step Up — continues to showcase the kind
of top-notch choreography to which fans who dig fine shindigging have become
Instead of providing a light plot to match the lively steps
of the dance numbers, though, Revolution wanders off into risible pretentiousness.
Stony-faced exchanges about protesting this and that and “breaking the rules” are
more likely to make audiences cringe than reflect.
Throw in some risque routines — as well as a few turns of phrase
too salty for the youngsters who would otherwise probably enjoy this outing
the most — and the fun is dampened still further.
The hackneyed plot focuses on Miami urbanite Sean (Ryan Guzman).
Along with his best friend since childhood, Eddy (Misha Gabriel), Sean
runs a flash-mob group known — imaginatively — as “The
Their version of the fad sees this ensemble of highly skilled dancers,
musicians and artists suddenly appearing out of nowhere, providing their
chosen audience with a jaw-dropping performance to be recorded on cell
phones and immortalized on YouTube, and then vanishing.
With fame and possible fortune looming, Sean encounters the
equally fleet of foot Emily (Kathryn McCormick), who’s out to audition her way
into the prestigious Wynwood Dance Company. Needless to say, when hoofer
meets hoofer, it’s kismet.
Pouty Em is busy rebelling against her millionaire father, Bill (Peter
Gallagher), who, sensibly enough, wants her to abandon her long-shot dreams
of becoming a professional dancer and go back to college.
When they discover that Bill — heartless capitalist that he is — plans to redevelop local land and raze their downscale neighbourhood in the process, the truculent troupe, Emily included, go into Occupy mode.
They plan a
campaign of “protest art” to fight against the forces of conformity.
Ostensibly of-the-moment references to social media and online hits, alas,
fail to make this story any less stale than it sounds.
So in lieu of a fun-filled whirl across the dance floor, Brody and first-time
director Scott Speer give us a surfeit of half-baked political posturing
and self-indulgent sentimentality.
While the relationship between the two leads remains wholesome,
not an adjective that could be used to describe the pseudo-sexual style
of public grinding they favour.
The film contains much highly suggestive dancing, a single
censored rough term and occasional crude and crass utterances. The Catholic
News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association
of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material
may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days
NEW YORK (CNS) — School’s out, and the local country club is the focus of fun in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (Fox 2000). This second sequel in the comedy franchise that started with 2010’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid is based, like its predecessors, on the “novels in cartoons” of Jeff Kinney.
Sourced from the third and fourth books in Kinney’s series, Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky’s screenplay provides a warm, kid-friendly outing that emphasizes the virtue of honesty and the importance of familial ties.
Zachary Gordon once again plays awkward preteen protagonist Greg Heffley. With summer just starting, Greg plans a housebound season of soda and video games. His dad, Frank (Steve Zahn), has different ideas, seeing the break from school as an opportunity for the two of them to bond through a long sequence of outdoor activities.
Greg initially evades this dread prospect by getting his loyal sidekick,
Rowley (Robert Capron), to invite him to spend his days hanging out at
the aforementioned club, where Rowley’s parents are members. This
ritzy destination is made doubly desirable by the fact that Greg’s
school crush, Holly (Peyton List), teaches tennis there.
His deceitful scheme, needless to say, soon goes awry, thanks in part to his knuckleheaded older brother — and frequent nemesis — Rodrick (Devon Bostick). Rodrick exploits Greg’s fibbing to worm his own way into the luxurious facility, with a gluttonous eye on smoothies and anything that involves bacon.
Greg’s predicament allows director David Bowers to deliver a moving message amid the laughs, especially as father and son eventually reconcile to battle a common enemy — the outdoors.
Though it follows a predictable arc — and features such done-to-death gags as the diver who surfaces minus his swimsuit — “Dog Days” still makes for an enjoyable ride.
A touch of vaguely crass humour, such as the name of Rodrick’s band, Loded Diper, is also easily overlooked in favour of the generally amiable proceedings. So too is a locker-room scene in which a couple of portly men’s towels ride down in the off-putting manner of the proverbial plumber.
Those in search of a screen adaptation that doesn’t involve courtly vampires, Latin spells or children forced to fight to the death need look no further.
The film contains some mild scatological humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
Shaw is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops