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Netflix-1: The works of Korean director JOON-HO BONG

July 1, 2017 Leave a comment

Over the years, I have grown into treating NETFLIX as my window to World Cinema…a place where I can retreat and get exposed to cultures outside of what Hollywood or Bollywood have to offer. NETFLIX is the ultimate place to go for any and every serious movie lover who is open to trying “film cuisines” from countries outside of their own. A place where one can witness the immeasurable movie talent that exists outside the one that we have gotten used to. A place which you can laugh and cry and get melancholic…and that too, despite the Subtitles!!

On the eve of the release of OKJA, Netflix’s latest movie offering, I am kicking off a series of short posts where I will recommend films from around the world that are presently available on Netflix and which you, as serious moviegoers can plan to watch, in case you are looking for a respite from the cacophony of the usual blockbusters.

And what better way to start than with the world of director Joon-ho Bong. Yes, Bong is the director of OKJA and one of the most stunning directors ever to come out of Korea, after Chan-wook Park. Bong started his career with the dark comedy BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE back in 2000 and followed it up with his so-called masterpiece MEMORIES OF MURDER (a film that I would highly recommend renting from your local library, as it is not available on Netflix).

BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE has a zany sense of humor that will have you squirming and screaming with delight, often at the same time….all owing to its funnily humane characters. It’s a small film and the low-budget is visible in the average production values. But it’s a quirky satire and one that I would urge you all to not miss.

It was his next film, the monster dramedy THE HOST that put Joon-ho Bong on the map of Korean directors to really watch out for. THE HOST is a horror film with a sharp human touch and creature special effects that make your jaw drop. It’s funny, it’s scary, it’s emotional and it’s a top-notch thriller that puts a sad smile on your face at the end. This is easily one of the best horror films with a heart that you will ever see. And it’s on Netflix.

The repertoire of Bong’s illustrious career would, however, not be complete without the absolutely unmissable and stunning MOTHER, a film that knocks your socks off and makes you feel like rewinding and watching it all over again. This is a modern classic of world cinema, in my opinion, and one of the must-see films on Netflix at present. Without giving away any spoilers, MOTHER is a staggering and heartbreaking piece of cinema which truly showcases the immense directorial talent of Joon-ho Bong.

Bong has also directed the underrated and misunderstood but highly enjoyable SNOWPIERCER. That film is presently not available on Netflix but it has been in the past and I would recommend adding it to your list, in case it shows up again at some time in the future. The film, set in a dystopian future, boasts of an ensemble cast that is drool-worthy and marked Bong’s debut in Hollywood as his first English language film.

So, sit back, relax and savor the works of a master director over the next few days by watching these four films of Joon-ho Bong on Netflix in the following order:

  1. MOTHER
  2. OKJA
  3. THE HOST
  4. BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE

I will be back soon with my next post soon, where I will try to recommend 2-3 films from different countries that you might find interesting for a rainy summer afternoon. Until then…keep (Net)Flixing!

Categories: Bollywood, Hollywood, Movies

ALIEN: COVENANT And the Joy of Prequels

May 27, 2017 Leave a comment

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I have always found prequels to be more fascinating than sequels. Primarily because of the fact that they give a better glimpse into a writer/director’s mind than a sequel does. And prequels, I feel, are a bigger testament to a filmmaker’s vision and his/her film making prowess. Its harder to trace the origins of a story and tie the origins seamlessly into what we have come to love over the years, than to take a story further from where you left off the last time we talked about it.

Both have seen their fair share of successes and failures over the years. STAR WARS Episodes 1-3 are a classic case of prequels that went strangely wrong (Only in my humble opinion, Force Fans!) while the recent sequels of the same have shown considerable strength. Similarly, BATMAN BEGINS, CASINO ROYALE and MONSTERS UNIVERSITY did an exemplary job with helping us see where some of our beloved characters came from. SPIDERMAN 2, TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY, BEFORE SUNSET and their likes, on the other hand, not only enhanced the original stories but added further nuance to the characters.

When director Ridley Scott mentioned a few years ago then he was planning on a series of prequels for his horror masterpiece, ALIEN, I was skeptical. Did I really care about the origin of the Xenomorph? Was I really curious about what really brought the crew member of the spacecraft Nostromo to the planetoid LV-426 and where those mysterious transmissions they received came from? I knew that Ripley was dead and the last attempt to “resurrect” her onscreen in ALIEN: RESURRECTION had resulted in something that was nothing short of a catastrophe!

Hell, I didn’t even clearly remember the original ALIEN movie, which came out back in 1979 when I was a small kid. I did have faint memories of jumping up in my theater seat, while watching James Cameron’s sequel ALIENS years ago, without understanding the cultural impact the Alien films would end up having on moviegoers in the decades to come. I am among the very few people who actually admired the third movie in the series – ALIEN3, due to its frenetic style of film making and started liking it even more when I found out that it was directed by the masterful David Fincher (who incidentally doesn’t want to ever talk about it!).

So when Ridley Scott unleashed PROMETHEUS on us in 2012, I was zapped! It fascinated me, it scared me, it left me bewildered, breathless and desperately clamoring for more. (Check out my post on Prometheus that I wrote after watching the film five years ago.)

ALIEN: COVENANT is the next installment in the Alien saga, directed again by Ridley Scott, which carries the story of PROMETHEUS further and closer to where the original ALIEN started. This is a smart, clever prequel which is a must-watch for all ALIEN fans…young and old…new and existing….horror-lovers and thrill seekers alike. The film is a wonderful example of how you use the DNA of something that the audience has come to love over generations and embellish it with something that once again gets fans talking and thinking.

The movie has plenty of R-rated gore, as the trailers clearly suggested, but the linkage from PROMETHEUS is so seamless that one can’t help admire the devious mind of Ridley Scott. Of course there are hiccups and there are questions that remain unanswered. The critics and audience have been understandingly frustrated and have hence been split on their verdict. But what I personally found worthy of my time and money, apart from those breathtaking visuals, the monumental artwork and the sizzling special effects, was Michael Fassbender’s superb acting and the way Scott and his writing team chose to carefully but assuredly expand on what they started with PROMETHEUS and lay it upon the audience in just the right amount of dosage.

Sure, there are hiccups galore. The story of the crew follows a familiar trajectory (Come on, it’s an ALIEN movie after all…so no surprises there!). People continue to act stupid, take unwise decisions and make mistakes that we have all come to treat as part of the package for all movies in this genre. And Katherine Waterston’s DANIELS is probably no match for Sigourney Weaver’s RIPLEY or maybe even Noomi Rapace’s ELIZABETH SHAW.

But is it even fair to compare Daniels or Shaw to Ripley? I strongly don’t believe so. Ripley’s strength as a character grew from film to film, in the face of an increasingly familiar threat. Whilst for both Shaw and Daniels, this is completely new and unchartered territory. The big and fearful unknown.  And given how the importance of their characters gets diminished along the way, compared to Fassbender’s synthetic DAVID, both characters (and actresses) just about deliver(ed) what is expected of them.

ALIEN: COVENANT is a film that is meant to be seen on the big screen and may not appeal to a lot of viewers in its first seeing. But this is a film that one is surely to start admiring upon second (and possibly even further repeated) viewings. As mentioned earlier, there are things that are left unaddressed and characters who are not dealt with. Ridley Scott has said that he has material for at least two more films before he is finally able to connect things to ALIEN. But my fear is that, given the tepid response to the two prequels, 20TH Century Fox (or some other studio) may either not want to agree to finance another installment, or Scott may decide not to direct it and it may end up in the hands of an unaccomplished director.

If any of that happens, if the questions remain unanswered, if the connection remains broken, then the vision of yet another master storyteller, director and the Alien “ENGINEER” will remain unfulfilled. And that will be something that neither a synthetic like DAVID or a human like myself would be able to come to terms with.

Categories: Hollywood, Movies

House Of Cards:S4 – Breathe…Breathe…Breathe.

March 12, 2016 Leave a comment

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In one of the Season 4 episodes of HOUSE OF CARDS, Frank Underwood breaks the Fourth Wall (as he loves doing…) and informs us that “When a dog is bitten, either you put it so sleep or put a muzzle on it. I’ve chosen the muzzle – for now.” It is one of the many classic and clap-worthy moments jam-packed into the latest season of the Netflix political drama that one can’t help marveling at.

After a lousy Season 3, where I almost gave up on the show, HoC is back. And how!

First and foremost is the fact that there is no longer any pretense. It is clear that the proceedings are far removed from reality. They are more incredulous than ever. Brash and uncompromising. And yet, they also feel oh so familiar. It is almost uncanny that, being in the Election Year ourselves, we are seeing headlines play right in front of us…in real-life as well as on the small screen.

This is a Season that is so relentless that you long for respite. There are so many things the show talks about, so many characters it plays with, so many scenarios it plays out and so many times makes your jaw drop that it almost leaves you gasping for breath. And yet the high drama and entertainment quotient is never compromised.

Its all there in this Season. Promises are broken…remade…and re-broken. Loyalties are tested. Betrayals are witnessed. Shocks are delivered. And yet they hardly give the impression of a gimmick.

All because of an impeccable cast, some amazing story-writing and deft direction. Beau Wilimon’s script is taut and tense while the direction, especially the four episodes, directed by Robin Wright, are gut-wrenching.

And the characters!

People may find Frank Underwood as hammy at times, but here is a character who reminds me all the time of BREAKING BAD’s Walter White. The difference, of course, is that, unlike Walter, Underwood does not (d)evolve into something over time but remains true to his nature from the beginning. Underwood’s Machiavellian tendencies of a scheming politician work wonders for his character and play around with the audience’s gut feelings…more so in Season 4 than any of the previous ones.

Claire Underwood continues to surprise us throughout the season and the strength and resolve of her character is nothing short of being remarkable. She was…and remains…Frank’s backbone….both in good and bad times. What a trajectory she has been given in this season to traverse!

And what can one say of the remaining folks. From Remy Dalton to Jackie Sharp. From Seth Grayson to Cathy Durant. From Freddy to Meechum. And from Tom Yates to Heather Dunbar. They are all here. And then some! The ghosts from the past show up too. And will continue to do so, as the Underwoods march on, in pursuit of their quest.

But it is Doug Stamper who stands above everyone else as Frank’s flawed yet resolute Chief of Staff. What a wonderfully conceived character! And his fierce loyalty is something that makes us shake our heads in amazement. We all know that he has his own skeletons to hide but here is someone who is an absolute pleasure to watch, regardless of the miscalculated steps he takes and the mistakes he continues to make.

Season 4 of House of Cards has so many hidden pleasures that you will find yourself smiling and rooting for the wrong people, then scolding yourself for doing so…only to smile yet again. And the Season Finale has one of the most stunning endings I have seen in a long time!

When I started watching this season last weekend, I was hoping that I would not miss the show during the long break between now and the next season. Season 3 had almost pushed me into saying that the show had already reached its end of life. But this season has proven me wrong. The 12-month break is already beginning to feel as being too long. And it’s been only a few hours since I finished binge-watching the entire season. Here’s looking forward to meeting the Underwoods very soon again.

During one of the episodes, Frank uses the words “We are going to destroy them”. Well, House of Cards has almost destroyed the competition anyway as far as one of the “Most Riveting Dramas on TV/Cable” is concerned. And this is easily the best season of the entire series…thus far.

Mission Accomplished, President Underwood! Now let’s continue work on building that “collection” of yours.

Categories: Hollywood, Movies

Movies to Plan Your Next Vacation Destination

July 2, 2015 Leave a comment

Movies are known to transport us into a different world. At times into a dream world, in the company of ones we love. To places where we would rather spend our time than within the confines of our homes.

With summer already here, it is time to start planning vacations….or at least dreaming of being in cities or countries we’ve seen in movies over the years but never actually had a chance to visit. To help you with the selection process, I am sharing a list of my favorite places (in no particular order) I have been introduced to, thanks to the wonderful world of movies. See if there are any that you either recognize or are already on your “to-visit” list. (Most of these films are either available on paid streaming websites like Netflix or on YouTube, free of cost.)

A superlative, atmospheric thriller starring George Clooney that captures the ethereal beauty of Castel del Monte in its full bloom. The cobble streets, winding roads, local cafes and lush, surrounding mountains…all creating images worth experiencing through your own eyes.

 

There is hardly an avid moviegoer who is not familiar with Stieg Larson’s Millennium Trilogy and the three films based on them (“The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo”, “The Girl Who Played with Fire” and “The Girl Who Stirred the Hornet’s Nest”). The twists and turns in the story of Lisbeth Salander are clap-worthy. However, it is the beauty of both rural and urban Sweden that truly captures your attention. Definitely a place I would like to visit someday.

 

All Pedro Almodovar directed-films bear his unmistakable stamp of an emotionally-charged mysterious plots, madcap characters, vibrant colors splashed all over the screen and a glimpse into Spain like no other director has done before. While both “Volver” and “Broken Embraces” are vintage Almodovar in terms of their plot, it is the exquisite beauty of Spain that remains with you long after the films are over.

 

 

Aloha! George Clooney shows up yet again on this list…this time as a concerned father and a jealous/doting husband, looking to find out more about his dying wife’s lover. All in the backdrop of beautiful Hawaii, in an equally surreal film directed by magical filmmaker, Alexander Payne.

 

One of the most colorful movies I have seen that celebrates love and beauty through the eyes of the wonderful Audrey Tatou. It is an absolute joy watching Tatou’s character, Amelie, spreading happiness into the lives of people around her. The scene-stealer, however, is the city of Paris, captured throughout the film with just the right amount of romance and passion.

 

Over the years, countless films have captured the beauty of New York, but never before has the Big Apple looked more romantic and dreamy in Black & White than in Frances Ha, an enchanting little indie about a NY girl who aims to fulfill her dreams while apprenticing for a dance company. An absolute must-watch!

 

Ah….one can smell the local food, the traditional Indian culture and the playful banter representative of the twin Indian cities of Lucknow and Kanpur throughout this gem of a film. Repeated viewings over the years have not put even a dent on my resolve to watch it yet again…and again…and again.

 

Yet another moody thriller like The American, in which a party of law enforcement officials drive through rural inland villages of Turkey with a convicted murderer. Their conversations are lengthy and philosophical…but nothing can surpass the beauty of Turkey that is captured by the film, as the posse drives from one small town to another, searching for the buried dead bodies of the murder victims.

 

Arguably, my favorite film in Richard Linklater’s “BEFORE” series and the most beautiful-looking amongst all three films (“Before Sunrise”, “Before Sunset”, “Before Midnight”). At times, its hard to concentrate on the delightful conversations Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy keep indulging in, without paying attention to those jaw-dropping exotic locales of Greece in the background.

 

An emotional powerhouse of a film that lands the main characters in a moral dilemma after a rich couple realize that their only child is in fact not theirs but was swapped at birth with the son of a poor family. While the questions raised by the film are worthy of long ponderous discussions, the only relief provided from the heavy-handed proceedings is via the amazing shots of Tokyo that instantly capture the imagination.

Categories: Hollywood

My Unforgettable Movie Moments of 2013

January 5, 2014 Leave a comment

With everyone coming up with their own best and worst lists of Top 10 movies and soundtrack, I decided to forgo doing the same for myself and instead list the most unforgettable moments that I experienced at the movies back in the year that was 2013. Surprisingly it did not take me long to come up with a few, but as I said earlier, this is not another “Top Ten” list. So I narrowed them down to two – one each for Hollywood and Bollywood.

It was an planned decision on my side. Right after Richard Linklater’sBEFORE MIDNIGHT” opened earlier in the year to positive reviews, I had made up my mind to watch all the three films together – back to back – especially given the fact that I had never before been exposed to the world of Jesse and Celine. So I rented “BEFORE SUNRISE”, “BEFORE SUNSET” and “BEFORE MIDNIGHT” and sat down to watch how these two characters, as well as the actors portraying them, had grown over the past 18 years…both on screen as well as off-screen.

For those of you who may not know, all three films were released with a gap of nine years between each one. Sunrise was released in 1995, Sunset in 2004 and Midnight in 2013. All through these years, the two lead characters – Jesse and Celine – played passionately by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, have spent time together, first in Vienna, then in Paris and finally in Greece in the latest installment of the trilogy. And what a fantastic journey this must have been for them, along with their fearless leader….their wonderful director, Richard Linklater.

It is an amazing experience watching the characters talk about their lives, their opinions, their fears, their inhibitions, their desires and their failures throughout these three films. And what’s even more fascinating is the fact the last two films were written together by Linklater, Hawke and Delpy. So they not only represent the metamorphosis of the characters from young kids to a couple in love but, also in a way represent the change over the years in thoughts, views and likes/dislikes of the actors who originally developed these characters and have been brave enough to smartly carry them forward from the nineties through the millennium into the world of Skype and Internet chatting.

Watching the “Before” trilogy back-to-back was my single favorite moment (albeit a fairly “long” moment that lasts about a combined running time of 5 hours :-)) of 2013 spent watching any Hollywood film. I will refrain from giving away anything more related to the plot, for those of you who may wish to enjoy these films at some time in the future. However, all I can hope and pray is that, nine years from now, when both Jesse and Celine are in their fifties (as will be most of us…), and the year is 2022, I wish to check on both of them, once more time, through the same insightful eyes of Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.

I saw the film again this past evening…for the third time. And with every subsequent viewing, my belief in this Bollywood film has strengthened. Vikramaditya Motwane’sLOOTERA” is simply brilliant and I can’t get enough of it!! Even though it did not end up on top of any film critic’s 2013 list (due to an uncanny allegiance the reviewers’ seemed to have pledged towards “THE LUNCHBOX” and “SHIP OF THESEUS”…), it did have a place in almost all of them. To turn a beloved short story into something so cinematically beautiful and poignant requires effort. And Motwane’s efforts are visible in every single frame of the film. This was indeed a true labor of love.

The acting was superlative. Right from the supporting cast to the lead pair, you could see the hard work everyone seemed to have put in into making this click. And how!! The love, pain and anguish of the lead characters was so delicately captured by both Ranveer Singh and Sonakshi Sinha that I laughed, cried and sympathized with them at every single point.

The music was ethereal. Right from “Manmarziyaan” and “Shikaayatein” to the heavenly “Ankahi”, “Sanwaar Loon” and “Zinda”…every song and its lyrics were dripping with melody and soul. The lyricist-music director duo of Amitabh Bhattacharya-Amit Trivedi, has rarely made any mistakes in the past. But this one was a true masterpiece from the pair. Haunting and mesmerizing.

As I watched the film again this evening, I could see the flawless camerawork, the lilting background score and the impeccable costumes and set designs on display throughout. Here was a film that should be mandatory viewing for anyone who wishes to see how far Bollywood has come over the years. Every minute of “LOOTERA” was a delight and the film unquestionably represents the other “long” unforgettable moment that I will cherish from 2013 – masterful, delightful and worthy of uninterrupted applauses.

I end this post with a line from the song “Zinda” from LOOTERA…which aptly sums up my feelings as I leave behind 2013 and move into 2014:

            “Kuchh Maangna Baaki Nahin…Jitna Mila Kaafi Hai”

            (There is nothing more left to desire…I am content with whatever I got)

Categories: Bollywood, Hollywood, Movies

Unchained…And Still Leash-worthy!!

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

OK, let’s be clear at the outset. This is a Quentin Tarantino film. Everyone expects carnage, bloodshed, bullets, wicked performances and some witty dialogues. And you get all of that…and much more…in DJANGO UNCHAINED, the latest offering from QT. People get shot left and right, straight and crooked, up and down, once and multiple times…and even after they are long gone!!

The dialogues are witty enough…and clever. The performances are up to par, with Samuel Jackson being gleefully despicable and Leonardo DiCaprio stealing every scene he stars in. We see a side of Leo that we would love to see more often…the slimy villain, with his child-like smile and a snake-like charm. Infectious yet poisonous. Hillarious yet Hateful. His “Calvin Candie” is easily amongst the best performances of the year.

QT is a Master of his Domain. He knows very well what his audience likes and expects him to deliver. And he does all of that in abundance here…QT-style. Hell, even his character actors get their two minutes of fame. Don Johnson stars in the best scene of the film, with a group of bumpkins and another equally talented actor who also puts in a cameo. It is a hilarious scene (with an undercurrent of a seriousness)…something that only QT could pull off.

And of course, there’s that unmistakably awesome soundtrack and background score. Where in the world does Tarantino come up with songs that are a perfect fit for every situation in his films? Right from the title track, which reminds us of all the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns that we have seen over the years, upto the climactic track that is worthy of Django’s actions…every single song fits like a perfect glove.

So what doesn’t work? What’s the gripe? For starters, it’s the proverbial Third Act Lag. I’m a huge fan of QT’s “build-up” scenes, where his protagonists sit down and quietly discuss matters at hand, using long, witty, often funny and seldom unworthy dialogues. Before the eventual mayhem kicks in, that is. Remember the introductory scene of Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds” or the final meeting between Bill and The Bride in “Kill Bill: Vol. 2”. It was a pleasure watching a master director at work, building the suspense and taking it to its crescendo, before unleashing the ultimate blood-soaked payoffs that we all paid our money for and bought the movie tickets, in the first place.

However, with Django, the build-up goes into tedious-land. I’m not sure what point QT wants to prove, but he takes way too long for the “festivities” to commence and turns a 2:10 hour Western into a 2 hour 45 minutes long conversation. Had he kept the back-and-forth exchanges between the characters to a manageable level, this would have been a completely different experience.

And then there is the QT familiarity that has slowly begun to take hold. God Bless Him that he only makes a film every 3-4 years. Lest the “Been there…Done that before” feeling would have kicked in a long time ago. Over the years, Tarantino has butchered people by covering most of the action film genres one could possibly think of. From the Mafia (“Pulp Fiction”, “Reservoir Dogs”, “Jackie Brown”) and slasher flicks (“Grindhouse / Death Proof”) to the World War (“Inglourious Basterds”), from Vampires (“From Dusk Till Dawn”) to Martial Arts (“Kill Bill”) and finally to this one…a Western….there is hardly anything that has been left untouched. Maybe a Space Station vengeance saga is what he needs next….with human blood and guts getting splattered in space and circling the Earth…gravity-free!!

But I want him to REALLY surprise me the next time. The settings may have been different, but I have seen it all now…umpteen times. Even the dialogue delivery is becoming all too familiar because we know why someone is mouthing those profanities…politely…and how it is ultimately going to end. Maybe I complain because I found the film too long. Had it been shorter, I would have enjoyed it more and praised it more.

Fans going out to watch a QT film will not be disappointed because DJANGO UNCHAINED is a 100% Quentin Tarantino film. Whether they walk out feeling a wee bit extra tired than usual, as I did, after spending three hours in the theatre, is another question. (Even the damn previews before the movie, which I usually love sitting through, went on and on…the Weinsteins must have made a lot of money on that section as well.)

Django, without his chains, is a fun watch. But had his creator used a small “leash” and wielded a tighter grip on the running time, seeing Django in action would have been a glorious watch.

(*** out of *****)

Categories: Hollywood

Bidding Adieu to Nolan’s Gothic Gotham…

July 27, 2012 Leave a comment

The storm arrived. The fire rose. And now there is calm…

While we all recover from yet another visual delight and an arresting cinematic experience from Chris Nolan, I have mixed feelings. “The Dark Knight Rises” is an almost “purr-fect” conclusion to Nolan’s epic vision of Gotham and his interpretation of the Bruce Wayne aka Batman saga. The internet has been rife with praises from both critics and the audience alike (except for the handful of critics who “dared” to criticize the film…and got slammed by the fans!) since the movie’s release last week.

I had been counting days, minutes and seconds before the movie unfolded in front of me in the theatre…and even though I couldn’t avoid reading some of the critics’ reviews prior to my watching it, I was still amazed. Amazed at Nolan’s storytelling abilities. Amazed at Tom Hardy’s Bane…even though he remains behind a “mask” throughout. Amazed at Anne Hathaway, Joseph-Gordon Levitt and Gary Oldman. Amazed at how good Micheal Cane still is, at this age. Amazed at Hans Zimmer’s stupendous, thumping and ominous background score. Amazed at the jaw-dropping visuals…truly worthy of a superhero film. And amazed at Christian Bale’s wonderful portrayal of both Batman and Bruce Wayne.

Not everyone likes Nolan’s style of storytelling (Jim Emerson details his gripe with the director’s storytelling technique in a fair amount of detail on his Scanners blog…). But for me, its “so-what”?? Every director has a unique style, a method behind his/her madness..be it Martin Scorcese, Woody Allen, Ridley Scott, Quentin Tarantino, Michel Haneke or PT Anderson. And so does Christopher Nolan. So why pick on him…and him alone?

There is no doubt that “The Dark Knight” was a tough act to follow. And Heath Ledger’s Joker a tough villian to compete with. Sure the movie attempts to do too much with too many characters. Agreed that Nolan gives us a dark, grim view into today’s headlines, with Class Wars, Occupy Wall Street, Financial Crisis, Terrorism and what have you. But defying the usual “third movie curse” (Spiderman 3, Alien 3, Back to the Future 3, Jurassic Park 3, etc.), “The Dark Knight Rises” ends the trilogy on a such a high and positive note that you can’t help but stand up and clap in the end…with the rest of the audience…as I did!!

And yet I have mixed feelings now. While Nolan has now put to bed a story that he started eight years ago with “Batman Begins“, I also feel that his decision to do so could not have come at a better time than this. I list below my Top Five Reasons as to why now was the right time for all of us to bid adieu to Nolan’s Gothic Gotham:

5.) Coming up next…A Back-to-Back Nolan Feast

For the past eight years, Chris Nolan has interjected his Batman movies with films like “The Prestige” and “Inception” which gave us a glimpse into the director’s mind outside of the dark world of Batman. With the trilogy now being complete, we wouldn’t have to wait long before seeing more original back-to-back creations of his devious mind.

4.) How much darker can darkness get?

OK…so if “The Dark Knight” was dark, TDKR took us into the abyss!! It doesn’t get any darker than this in a superhero film. Sure we’ve all seen our share of “Seven” and “Dragon Tattoo” movies, but a superhero movie needs to lighten up a bit. This was mass hysteria and total panic and utter chaos and complete carnage. I am not complaining about TDKR but if Nolan had continued the trend with another Batman movie, I would have thrown my hands up in the air, gasping for some air to breathe…

3.) Is that writer’s fatigue?

The Nolan Brothers and David Goyer kept their heads on their shoulders when writing the scripts for all three pictures. It is pretty clear that they knew which direction they wanted the trilogy to go, after “Batman Begins” and the writing kept getting better and more expressive. The characters in the subsequent films were much well drawn-out and the conversations were more intelligent. However, as some would say….it was also dangerously close to become too vague and abstract for a superhero movie. And as a friend of mine rightfully pointed out, it is evident that Warner Bros. arm-twisted them with the ending of TDKR…albeit to a smaller extent. And that is when the originality would start fading.

2.) Beware! Tired actors ahead.

Stars get tired. Period. They want to move on to another life…to another role…to another character. Eight years is a long, long time…especially for a talented cast like this one, who have the ability to play wide-ranging roles. (See Bale in “The Machinist” and “The Fighter“…or Morgan Freeman in “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Million Dollar Baby“.) And it would be very hard for me to imagine Nolan’s Gotham without Christian Bale donning the Batman garb…without Micheal Cane’s Alfred or without Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon.

1.) A Graceful Exit

It just was time. Its as simple as that. With the trilogy at its peak of innovation, with the storytelling and direction as its best and with all the actors giving their best, there could not be a better time to quit and end the story here than now. And Nolan has ended it with a bang!

The Summer of 2012 has seen the superhero movies graph go higher and higher as the months passed by. It started with the pure popcorn introduction of “The Avengers“, went on to show us a new and more humane “Amazing Spiderman” and has now ended with the scarily lofty “Dark Knight Rises“. It will be a summer to remember for comic book fans and for avid moviegoers. I will surely miss this Dark Knight and  never seeing Nolan’s Gotham City again. But I thank him for bringing a fitting superhero end to a superhero summer.

Why so serious, folks? Just Rise!!

Categories: Hollywood