6 items from 2005
Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman are in negotiations to topline Touchstone Pictures' The Prestige, which will serve as Christopher Nolan's next directorial outing. Bale and Jackman will play rival magicians in turn-of-the-century London who battle each other for trade secrets. The rivalry is so intense that it turns them into murderers. The title refers to the residue left after a magician's successful trick. The script is based on Christopher Priest's 1996 novel of the same name and was adapted by Nolan's brother, Jonathan. He wrote the short story on which Christopher's Nolan's breakout movie, Memento, was based on. Prestige reteams Bale with Nolan, both of whom worked on Batman Begins. »
- Foreign Spotlight: Memory of a Killer A young girl prostituted by her own father, an aging hitman with Alzheimer, a sexually charged widow, a corrupt Baron and two diverse detectives all clash heads in the vicious, cold blooded thriller Memory of Killer. Containing a little Belgium twist, this is definitely Flemish director Erik Van Looy’s homage to the American thriller with an extra effort to gain popularity beyond his national audience. Angelo Ledda (Jan Decleir) is the aging hitman forced to write down everything of importance on his arms due to his battle with Alzheimer. But unlike Memento, he uses a marker that can easily be wiped clean to leave no trace. Against his own judgment he takes on a mission that eventually leads him into the world of pedophilia. Ledda, a hitman with a heart of gold, grows a conscience and falls out of love with murder, »
The Batman film series, launched by Tim Burton in 1989, burned itself out after four pictures because of an overreliance on production design, increasingly campy costumes and mind-numbing action and noise. That any filmmaker could now revive the comic book character and his retro-futuristic world of Gotham City is a minor miracle. But for Christopher Nolan to turn Batman Begins into such a smart, gritty, brooding, visceral experience is astonishing. Truly, Batman does begin again.
Nolan's past two films certainly prepared us to expect the unexpected. Memento and Insomnia were mesmerizing thrillers in which meticulous writing laid the groundwork for complex characterizations, arresting themes and haunting imagery. Nolan now displays an ability to hitch that same intelligence and care to a summer tentpole movie.
Batman has always meant solid boxoffice for Warner Bros. Pictures, and Batman Begins will be no exception. How young male fans respond to a slow buildup to the action and the introspective nature of its hero will determine how big this event movie will be. It certainly deserves repeat visits because the carefully laid-in details will more fully emerge with each viewing.
Christian Bale delivers a subtle and engrossing performance as the divided hero, a man torn by guilt, anger and fear, who seeks a way to turn these negative emotions into a positive force for fighting evil. The first half of the film show us, logically and realistically, how the man known as Bruce Wayne came to assume a double life as a wealthy playboy and his alter ego, the dark avenger of the night.
After a black-and-white credit sequence, the movie immediately presents us with Bruce Wayne in two periods of his life: as a tike of 8 about to experience his first brush with fear and the life-altering trauma of witnessing his parents' murders, then as a lost soul in a hellish prison in the Far East. Tormented by the murders of his parents on the streets of Gotham, Bruce has traveled the world to educate himself on the criminal mind.
He is rescued from prison by a mysterious warrior named Ducard (Liam Neeson), who teaches Bruce to master his emotions and gives him the mental and physical discipline to fight his enemies. Eventually, Ducard reveals that he wants Bruce to join the League of Shadows, an underground vigilante movement headed by the stoic Ra's al Ghul (Ken Watanabe). When Bruce refuses to battle evil with evil, he becomes the League's mortal enemy.
Bruce returns home to take up residence in his parents' country manor, with the family's trusted butler Alfred (the always affable Michael Caine) assuming the role of manservant and mentor. Bruce finds his father's once philanthropic Wayne Enterprises now in the hands of a greedy CEO Richard Earle (Rutger Hauer), and Bruce's beautiful childhood friend Rachel (Katie Holmes) has become an assistant D.A.
Gotham is a city with futuristic elements yet bears more than a little resemblance to the Depression Era. (Remember that Batman first appeared in DC Comics in 1939.) The old town is overrun by a crime gang headed by Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson). Seemingly, half the city is on the take. The only apparent honest cop, Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman once more disappearing chameleonlike into a role), complains that there is nobody to whom he can rat out the bad guys.
Gradually, Batman, a one-man force for good, comes together. Bruce discovers that Wayne Enterprises' Applied Sciences division, headed by resourceful Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), has developed all the tools he'll need to fight crime. These range from a survival suit of nearly impervious body armor to an indestructible car that becomes the Batmobile. His Batcave turns out to be a literal one, a damp and dark area underneath the southeast wing of his manor where bats roost.
Batman begins his campaign against corruption by striking at the heart of Falcone's criminal empire. But he soon realizes that a more sinister force is moving to destroy Gotham, a force fronted by cunning psychiatrist and medical experimenter Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy) and backed by his old pals with the League of Shadows.
Fights and chases occur in a gloomy, rainy, fear-drenched landscape of urban anarchy. The primary weapon everyone uses is fear. The criminal gang instills such terror in the citizenry that no one fights back. Batman chooses costumes and methods to turn that fear back on the criminals, who must confront a batlike creature they cannot fathom, a foe that vanishes before they land a blow.
Nolan and co-screenwriter David S. Goyer keep things logical and rational despite the story's comic book origins. Batman's heroics are the outgrowth of planning and psychology, not superhuman abilities. Fights are constructed in tight shots and quick edits that explode in rhythmic fury. A car chase looks like something one might catch on local TV news -- except, of course, for the Batmobile's ability to leap from roof to roof.
Similarly, designer Nathan Crowley and cinematographer Wally Pfister create a nightmarish city that reeks of despair. The music credit is shared by two top film composers, Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, so it's hard to know whom to blame for its own schizophrenia wherein the major themes are rousing and memorable but the score comes on too strong in many sequences. Lindy Hemming's costumes are striking as they mirror the various strata of society as well as the "uniforms" of the heroes and villains in this alternate reality.
Warner Bros. Pictures
A Syncopy production
Credits: Director: Christopher Nolan; Screenwriters: Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer; Story by: David S. Goyer; Based on characters appearing in: DC Comics; Batman created by: Bob Kane; Producers: Charles Roven, Emma Thomas, Larry Franco; Executive producers: Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan; Director of photography: Wally Pfister; Production designer: Nathan Crowley; Music: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard; Costumes: Lindy Hemming; Editor: Lee Smith. Cast: Bruce Wayne/Batman: Christian Bale; Alfred Pennyworth: Michael Caine; Henri Ducard: Liam Neeson; Lucius Fox: Morgan Freeman; Lt. Gordon: Gary Oldman; Ra's al Ghul: Ken Watanabe; Rachel Dawes: Katie Holmes; Dr. Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow: Cillian Murphy; Carmine Falcone: Tom Wilkinson; Richard Earle: Rutger Hauer.
MPAA rating PG-13, running time 150 minutes
TORONTO -- Montreal's Just for Laughs comedy festival said Tuesday that its Comedia movie showcase will kick off with a screening of New Line Cinema's Wedding Crashers, a comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as divorce mediators who crash weddings to pick up women. Comedia has booked a number of American comedies, including Philip Zlotorynski's My Big Fat Independent Movie, which spoofs indie hits such as Memento and Pulp Fiction; Brian Herzlinger's My Date With Drew, a documentary about a digital filmmaker looking to date Drew Barrymore; and Jeffrey Ross' Patriot Act, a documentary about Drew Carey leading a platoon of comics into Iraq to entertain U.S. troops. »
Two-time Tony Award winner Julie Taymor has come on board to direct the musical All You Need Is Love for Revolution Studios. Love, which will feature 18 songs by the Beatles, is a love story about a British boy and an American girl set against the backdrop of the social upheaval of the 1960s. Although not about the Fab Four, the musical will use their songs to drive the narrative, with the actors singing and dancing to the classic tunes. The film is being produced for Revolution Studios by Matt Gross, who originally brought the project to Revolution's Derek Dauchy. Dauchy is overseeing the project for the studio and also will executive produce. Suzanne and Jennifer Todd of Team Todd (Memento, the Austin Powers series) also have come on board as producers. Ben Haber is serving as a co-producer. Love was written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (The Commitments). CAA-repped Taymor, who won two Tonys for the Broadway production of The Lion King, also directed the films Frida, starring Salma Hayek, and Titus, starring Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange. Production is expected to begin in September for a Thanksgiving 2006 release. »
New Line's indie unit Fine Line Features announced Wednesday the appointment of Greg Forston as senior vp distribution. Joining Fine Line from IFC Films, Forston will be responsible for the release pattern and distribution of Fine Line's films. He will be based in Fine Line's New York offices and will report to New Line Cinema's president of distribution David Tuckerman. At IFC Films since 2000 as vp sales, Forston oversaw the national sales strategy for all films, including My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Memento and Y Tu Mama Tambien. Before IFC, Forston headed theatrical distribution and marketing for Palm Pictures/Manga Entertainment. »
6 items from 2005
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