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stephenfrance

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4 reviews in total 
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Batman: Year One (2011) (V)
9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
I'm still a child, 1 November 2011

The Batman franchise is currently dominating every single form of media there is. From the incredible Arkham Asylum videogames, the Christopher Nolan revamped films, to the recently developed animated sagas, Batman is performing beyond all other comic-book heroes.

Ironically, he is one of the only graphic novel characters I appreciate more in my maturity, due to the story's vast amount of themes and ideas.

Batman: Under the Red Hood 2010 was perhaps the most enthralling animated film since the famous Batman: The Mask of the Phantasm 1993, so I greatly anticipated Batman Year One.

This film retells the story of one of the most famous fictional crime- fighting partnerships ever created. Batman and police official Lieutenant James 'Jim' Gordon.

When I heard Jim Gordon was going to be one of the protagonists, I had my reservations. I should have known better. This movie did not disappoint. In fact, it was far the opposite.

The plot follows both characters with their respective stories: Bruce Wayne, boy billionaire returns to Gotham City after being absent for many years following his parent's murder. He is lost and seeking a path to cope with vengeance. His transformation into the dark avenging angel Batman is the crux of the plot.

Running parallel, Jim Gordon is a honourable police officer joining a corrupt authority in Gotham City's Police Department. His durability in pursuing his career, regardless of the crooked cops he is surrounded by form his intriguing story.

There were specific points that illustrated the relentless will-power of each character. The first sighting of Batman revealed his character defining raison d'etre – his upkeep of justice as opposed to vengeance, and his preservation of human life over killing: He knocks a man off a balcony, but holds onto his leg. The expression of this point emerged from the beating he receives from two other thugs as he maintains his grip of the criminal who could die if he lets go.

Jim Gordon's most challenging moment was his perseverance in the police force, following a remorseless physical attack from his work colleagues.

The professionalism of the directors and producers was shown through their selection in voice actor Ben McKenzie for Batman. The dialogue, inner monologues and delivery portrayed a young Batman just commencing his crusade on crime and it worked.

The film is definitely worth watching if you are a Batman fan, but I would never recommend this as a general crowd pleaser. Animations are often seen as childish cartoons and understandably, they are shunned by adult audiences. If Batman is perceived as a kid's passion, then consider me a big child, because I cannot ever imagine disliking this character nor ignoring any of the films, be it live action or animation.

Nevertheless, if you do like 'the dark knight', then add this to the hit-list.

Drive (2011/I)
4 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
From Silence to Violence, 19 October 2011
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Drive opens with two burglars committing a stealthy robbery and subsequently, a slick escape from the authorities with the aid of a hired wheelman.

Ryan Gosling plays the silent, serious and stoic Driver for the thieves; a man occupied as a stunt-performer by day and moonlighting as a get- away driver by night.

The introduction can simply be described as silent. There is melodic, melancholic and a methodical tone to the music accompanying the quiet scenes and brief sections of dialogue; nonetheless, it is eerily tranquil.

Almost fifteen minutes pass before our main protagonist speaks and to contribute to the building mystery, we are not provided with a name for our lead.

Ideas about Ryan's character begin to bleed out from the silence of the filmic script; he is patient, quiet, controlled, strong-willed and streetwise; however, he appears to be suppressing an extreme emotion or perception.

Audiences will recognise that there is depth to his personality. It emerges from his eyes, body language, lack of expression and the deafening serenity of the movie.

The silent moments in this film seem to express more than the scenes of dialogue. Ryan's character is a man who appears to harbour a dark side; a man that stares into the abyss and does not blink; categorically, a lead character that viewers will have great difficulty disliking.

The beginning also reveals his attraction to his neighbour and her child. He stares at them as if they are his release from his self- imposed solitude. He forms a relationship with them and learns that the child's father is in prison.

In my experience, introductions that translate as predominantly calm mean an aggressive situation is lurking in the shadows. When Standard (Oscar Isaac) emerges on the screen as the father who has been released from jail, I immediately wondered if this would be the start of the violence; this particular actor has played some dubious characters in the past, namely his recent performance as Blue Jones in Sucker Punch, the sinister pimp.

After a few scenes with Standard, I was right to wonder...

Drive is a true character driven plot. The Driver remains nameless for the entirety of the script, adding allure to the story. He has conflicting behavioural traits; the plot unveils his deep sense of morality in his protection of Standard's family from a relentless mob, yet he murders anyone who targets them with robotic simplicity.

He unveils his knowledge of criminal psychology when he stares at the crooks he is dealing with, clearly able to analyse them, which makes viewers wonder: where has he been? What has he done? Fundamentally, who is this man?

Using this enigmatic, fearless and very capable central protagonist, the creators keep the audience in constant suspense. The transition from a humble film to one of raw aggression is amplified by brutal sound effects for the vicious fight scenes.

There are many characters that have been created in the past, similar to the Driver. They are universally fascinating. To name a few examples: Jack Reacher from Lee Child's Reacher series of books, Jubei Kibagaymi from Ninja Scroll 1993, Bone from Blood and Bone 2009, and Ryu in the video game and anime series of Street Fighter.

They are loners, drifters with mysterious pasts, amazingly strong combat skills and mental acuteness surpassing average intelligence. These characters tend to be scarred by some tragedy in their past and it has imparted humility.

This film was fantastic and very profound, because of this character choice. The 'Outro' soundtrack used in the final scene of the film, completed the story.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Now this is the rabbit hole, 18 October 2011
6/10

The introduction to the story reveals a young girl, institutionalised in a mental hospital by her abusive step father. Her imagination fortifies a paranormal world in her mind as both a means of survival and strategy for escape.

This film is very abstract in nature.

Initially, the plot's direction is obscure as our protagonist appears to transcend three worlds: The first where she is institutionalised in an asylum for the insane; the impression denoted by this world is that it is reality.

In the second place, she is slave to the desires of a high-class brothel; it is not clear in the beginning whether this is her subsequent venture from the asylum or her imagination.

The third is a land, depicted as a place in her mind – a world where anything is possible, from gravity defying Martial Art skills to supernatural antagonists. The music used during transcendence into this alternate universe is unusual, but addictive. The scenes are action- packed and intriguing as the audience is brought to question what this world represents.

Arguably, this film script forms a unique version of the famous Alice in Wonderland tale. It is an enigma throughout the duration, it sustains suspense regarding the conclusion and the ending is a valuable lesson.

This is not an amazing film, but I would definitely recommend it for its enjoyment factor.

By Stephen Leslie France

The Unsaid (2001)
What is not said can be far more important…, 6 October 2011
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

With one of the most heart-breaking introductions, The Unsaid places audiences on a psychological carousel, with enigmas about human behaviour that provoke curiosity and perplexity.

Watching this film a whole decade later since my first viewing, it was even more emotional than I previously comprehended.

As I mentioned above, the story begins with a tragedy of the greatest magnitude.

Michael Hunter and his wife Penny intend on going to their daughter's school performance; however, their son refuses to join them. He is showing clear signs of depression and is reluctant to converse with his family.

Unable to penetrate their son's barrier of silence, the family travel without him.

In a climactic moment, the family return home to find their son dead, having committed suicide.

Several years later, therapist Barbara Lonigan enlists Michael's expertise with seventeen year old Thomas Caffey.

Thomas is soon to be released from a home for troubled adolescents, pending his eighteenth birthday. The seemingly balanced teenager shows no signs of trauma, regardless of his brutal memory of his mother's murder.

Barbara suspects that Thomas is not ready for release, despite his 'normal' appearance and persona.

Tortured by nightmares and feelings of failure to save his son, Michael takes the task - Deciphering what really happened in Thomas' past is the crux of this intriguing psychological film.

This plot will wrench at feelings you possess and other emotions you were unaware existed – I am not a father, but that initial scene successfully forced the power of paternity on me.

Trevor Blumas who plays Michael's son, Kyle Hunter, emulates the body language, facial expressions and tone of a depressed individual in an unbelievably convincing act.

There is a great amount of pain, sadness, realism, humanity and inhumanity throughout the movie. If there was ever a place where there are real complications, real grey, real conundrums in psychology, this storyline harbours them.

There is no simplistic right or wrong, black or white, good or evil; just a set of horrific and profoundly sad events.

The IMDb average rating currently stands at 6.5/10. This should definitely be higher.

Review by Stephen Leslie France