Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)

***½
USA



Christopher Nolan delivers another solemn, bloated Batman spectacle in a trendy haze of profundity. Thanks to Heath Ledger's hypnotic, maniacal Joker however, the sense of perpetually lurking evil is stronger than at any point in the franchise since Tim Burton bailed. So the film maintains its pull even though: Christian Bale looks constipated throughout (and when the mask comes on, he also sounds it); the fights are not visceral, or impressionistic, or anything other than a mess; and the epic, convoluted climax is beyond silly.

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Frost/Nixon (Ron Howard, 2008)

**
USA



Peter Morgan continues his pattern of taking a well-documented historical conflict, padding it with exposition and convincing a frightening number of people that he has contributed something. Ron Howard may as well have been directing over the phone and Frank Langella’s Nixon feels like one of those moderately funny party tricks that won’t go away (or go down in volume) even after you’ve chuckled politely, turned around and tried to start up a more productive conversation.

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On a side note, even by AMPASS standards, what a miserable Best Picture selection 2008 was...

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The Raven (Lew Landers, 1935)

***½
USA



At the peak of his powers of enunciation and sinister knuckle formation, Bela Lugosi plays a Poe fanatic with a secret chamber's worth of Poe-inspired torture devices. He controls Boris Karloff by paralysing half his face with hilarious google-eye make-up. This is by no means one of the essential Universal horrors, but it's wonderfully cheesy and wonderfully eerie.

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