Thinking outside the D-Box

Vibrating seats? Rhythmic thrusts? FOUR INTENSITY LEVELS? D-Box motion technology has arrived in our cinema seats – just in time for 50 Shades of Grey: The Movie, I hear you cheer excitedly. Well, it turns out it’s also good for Batmen too, as The Dark Knight Rises is finally given the tools needed to move its audience.

‘Gimmick’ has become something of a dirty word in film criticism, with each fresh attempt to augment the traditional movie-going experience sneeringly dismissed as unnecessary, or even deleterious. While the latest incarnation of 3D has taken the brunt of this puritanical approach to cinema (note the praise, however, that has been lavished on the IMAX format), the lack of serious attention being paid to D-Box — a Canadian-born technology which allows the audience to ‘feel’ the action taking place onscreen — speaks volumes about its cold reception.

Although already established in its native Canada, the United States and New Zealand, the motion seats only arrived in the UK in March when Cineworld refurbished screen 11 of its Glasgow Renfrew Street site. With a large number of movie releases already compatible with the technology, Cineworld has been able to show a wide variety of the year’s biggest releases in D-Box… for a cost. Despite having missed the likes of Avengers AssemblePrometheus and The Amazing Spider-Man (I imagine the technology would have served the web-slinging sequences very well indeed), I bought a ticket for The Dark Knight Rises on Best for Film’s behalf and went along to see what the (distinct lack of) fuss was all about.

At an additional cost of £4.50 (£5.50 for 3D performances), you can choose between 35 motion seats situated in the centre of the screen. Despite the novelty having presumably worn off the four-month-old system, we still had to book ahead as it routinely sells out. Once in the screen, a series of adverts advise you on the controls — a small dial allows you to choose between four different intensity settings, which can be moderated throughout — while giving you a taste of things to come. As with 3D, it is the flight scenes which really make the most of the technology, and the adverts make use of this to great effect.

Having already seen The Dark Knight Rises, I was sceptical regarding the film’s suitability for the D-Box – or so-called 4D – format due to its considerable duration (what if I didn’t like it?) and lack of any notable action set pieces. Having already witnessed a Batman-themed simulation at Warner Bros. Movie World Germany, however, I was drastically underestimating the refinement and advances that have gone into the motion technology in the years since. D-Box has been implemented incredibly well, enhancing even the quietest scenes with slight turbulence or a physical emulation of swooping camera angles that really work to immerse you in the action. Everything from gunshots, to explosions, to small movements resonate through the seats.

But D-Box is, undeniably, a gimmick; it just depends on whether or not you see value in such novelty enhancements. There is no light loss (as per 3D) and the seats remain active throughout the entire movie (unlike IMAX, which is only used for certain sequences), the technology treading a fine line between becoming an annoyance and fading into the background completely. You’ve paid extra for the experience, after all, the last thing you want is for your body to adapt to the seats and rob you of the unusual sensation, especially when the simulation is of such high quality. For me, at least, it was a welcome addition. I had found the film tedious, overlong and uninvolving upon my first viewing, and the D-Box motion seats were enough to sustain me through a second viewing. Everything a gimmick is supposed to do, really. And you can’t really ask for more than that.

Should the format prove suitably successful in Glasgow, Cineworld has spoken of its plans to implement the technology in other sites around the UK. I recommend giving it a go, particularly if there is a film on release that might particularly benefit from the simulation. I for one will certainly be going again, personally funding the format if I must until the 2014 release of How To Train Your Dragon 2.

This article was originally published at Best for Film.

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July 2012 – You don’t wanna know what I have to do for twenties

Compared to the busyness of last month, with its foreign weddings and international film festivals, July has been taking it slow. Too slow.

This month saw the release of The Amazing Spider-man, Magic Mike, Friends With Kids, Seeking A Friend For The End Of the World, Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, The Dark Knight Rises and The Lorax, while I caught Ted ahead of its release courtesy of Show Film First. Unfortunately, none of the above managed to shift the summer season from its cinematic rut. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been genuinely blown away since The Avengers, and that was back in April.

Surprisingly, it was the animated releases that really let the month down. While Ice Age has never been my favourite franchise, I had real hopes for The Lorax. Alas, it was instead the latest in a long line of adaptations that have failed to do Dr. Seuss’ classic creations justice. Meanwhile, dramedies Friends With Kids and Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World seemed to fall into the no-man’s-land between both genre’s, even if the latter was substantially better then the former.

It was the superheroes that came out on top this month, with both The Amazing Spider-man and The Dark Knight Rises scoring solid three and a half star reviews for their handling of two of the genre’s most famous figureheads. The Dark Knight Rises improved on its predecessors with a newfound emotional centre in Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, even if it did once again fall foul to Christian Bale’s tedious take on the caped crusader himself. Andrew Garfield made for a far punchier protagonist, imbuing Peter Parker with an angst and wit that Tobey Maguire’s was always lacking. Heck, there was so much to like I had to write a second review.

In addition to film-related duties, which this month included my first ever D-Box experience, I also contributed the first of (hopefully) many articles to Caroline O’Donoghue’s wonderful Work In Prowess, including one on the predicted highlights of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I also tuned into the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics (as put together by Danny Boyle), it’s safe to say I’ve never been so caught up in a sporting event before. Ever.

I ended the month — as I have the last eighteen — with the next James Bond movie for BlogalongaBond. July’s prescribed instalment was The World Is Not Enough, and for the first time since this exercise began I was left wanting more. Rather apt, really.

Film of the moth: The Amazing Spider-man

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Blamed by the citizens of Gotham for the death of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart – in flashback) eight years previously, Batman has been retired from duty while Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) exiles himself in the family manor with only butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) for company. The truth is that Batman is no longer needed, the city’s streets the safest they’ve ever been thanks to the Dent Act, a precursor to peace-time that has left the police growing complacent and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) racked with guilt over the hidden truth behind Dent’s demise. Both are therefore caught off guard by the arrival of Bane (Tom Hardy), a masked monolith who has been rallying an army in the city’s sewers. When Batman is dragged out of retirement by a mysterious cat-burglar (Anne Hathaway), a collision course is set that could spell the end of Gotham once and for all. Read more of this post

Batman Begins (2005)

Blaming himself for his parents’ murder years before, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) bides his time until the man responsible is up for parole and then sets out for revenge. Robbed of absolution when somebody else beats him to it, Wayne forfeits his family’s empire and exiles himself in a Bhutanese prison, where he is eventually courted by Ra’s al Ghul’s (Liam Neeson) The League Of Shadows. Trained as a ninja and taught to overcome his childhood fear of bats, Wayne returns to butler Alfred (Michael Caine) and his family’s fortune when the organization’s true intention – to destroy Gotham, ridding it of its evils – becomes clear. With pawn Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy as Scarecrow) already in place, the newly created Batman will have to seek assistance from DA Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) and Sgt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman) if there is to be much of Gotham left to save. Read more of this post

Why I Never Wanted To Be Batman

I’ve taken some stick in the last few years – ever since Christopher Nolan released Batman Begins on an inexplicably adoring public – over my complete and utter disinterest in his near-complete Bat-trilogy. It seems to have taken over my life, as an inordinate number of film-related conversations since have broached the subject, often leading to a lecture on why it is exactly that The Dark Knight (the 2008 sequel, as if you didn’t already know) is one of the best movies of all time. I’m as guilty as anyone, I suppose, as I duly rise to the challenge and recycle my counter argument almost verbatim.

While I have myriad problems with Nolan’s films – that Batman looks out of place in his own movie, that Gotham never looks the same twice, that the Lucius Fox character is completely superfluous, Rachel Dawes in general, Christian Bale’s growly performance, that half of the character’s mythology is abandoned as it doesn’t fit with Nolan’s gritty and realistic take on the character, that Nolan’s gritty and realistic take on the character nevertheless includes bat-ears, mobile phone sonar and (as of The Dark Knight Rises) a flying tank – my issues go far deeper than that. I’ve simply never been that interested in the character. As a kid, I never wanted to be Batman.

“Why should this matter?” I hear you ask. “You liked Jaws, but I bet you never wanted to be the shark?” True, except I’m not sure that anyone else has, either. The superhero (vigilante, whatever) genre is different, you see, as it uses as its source material revered comic books that have helped inspire generations of fans, prompting a loyalty, dedication and following that most movies simply don’t enjoy. Through action figures, playing cards and even fancy dress nights at your local nightclub, people have been putting their feet in their favourite characters’ shoes for years, making them more than just traditional characters. They’re icons. For me it was always Peter Parker’s Spider-man who captured my imagination most; a superpowered teenager finally able to turn the tables on his bullies, win the affections of the girl he likes, and who could escape his many concerns and issues by web-slinging his way to the top of the tallest skyscraper. It inspired me as a child, as a teenager, and still does to this day.

But with Batman I’ve simply never understood the appeal. A middle-aged billionaire playboy who aims to clean up the mean streets of Gotham in order to avenge the death of his parents, Bruce Wayne dresses like a bat – a caped crusader – so that he can tackle the city’s criminal underbelly by night, hiding his identity to protect those that he loves (well, Alfred). That’s about it, right? Nothing much else to add? Personally, I’ve always found the supporting cast more interesting: the morally ambiguous cat-burglar, the clown-faced psychopath, the poison-lipped eco-terrorist and the adoring side-kick acrobat. As such, the films of Burton and Schumacher (though even I’ll admit Batman and Robin was pretty terrible) were at least able to distract me from the charisma-vacuum at their centre with a campy tone, Gothic aesthetic and diverse gallery of villains. I suppose I like Batman Returns most because the Batman/Catwoman dynamic is genuinely interesting.

Enter Christopher Nolan, a filmmaker keen to take Batman back to his “roots” and re-establish the character as a dark, brooding detective. Sadly, Nolan’s rebooted universe had no use for the more outlandish characters of the Batman past, the director refusing to use the likes of Penguin, Mr. Freeze and Robin through fear that they might make the whole thing – a grown man in a cape punching another man dressed as a scarecrow – seem a little silly. Whilst the other comic book characters living it up in multiplexes the world over are engaging in feats of great daring, love, self-improvement, friendship, wit and superheroics, then, Christian Bale is wearing designer suits, disingenuously trying to win the affections of an underwritten Rachel Dawes or growling through his cowl as he intrudes on an otherwise perfectly reasonable crime procedural. Who am I rooting for again?

My protests usually provoke the suggestion that I don’t want complexity from my comic book movies, that I’d rather forego maturity, intelligence and depth in favour of “slapstick, primary colors, and just plain old fun.” This is simply not true, I merely struggle to see why there needs to be a distinction between the two in the first place. The X-Men franchise deals with prejudice and acceptance, while featuring characters in yellow jumpsuits who are as at home with witticisms as they are with angst;  Hulk addresses the psychological concept of “the self”, while having a big green rage monster lay waste to an army of tanks; and Spider-man deals with the guilt of being responsible for a relative’s death, while making full use of the character’s sharp tongue and irrepressible optimism. None of which sacrifice complexity for fun or entertainment. And, even if they had, it’s not like one is fundamentally worthier than the other, anyway.

Nor do I have a problem with the fact that he’s a vigilante, lacking in any super abilities or powers. After all, billionaire playboy Tony Stark built himself an armoured costume (and he didn’t need Morgan Freeman to do it for him), widowed mercenary Frank Castle stockpiled weapons and Dave Lizewski bought a bodysuit off of ebay – not a radioactive spider-bite between them and yet they’re three characters that I find just as interesting and evocative as many of their superhero peers. Kick-Ass in particular is an interesting example. While Bat-fans argue that Nolan’s films are among the most ‘realistic’ in the genre, Batman’s struggles apparently all the more impressive due to his relative normality, it is impossible to deny that Bruce Wayne is nothing compared to Lizewski: a kid who takes on a superhero persona “just because”, who has no fortune, no friendly police chief and no weapons genius to fall back on.

But each to their own, and if you ran around your living room pretending to be Batman as a kid then I fully respect why you can enjoy Nolan’s films – or the Batman franchise as a whole – without feeling completely underwhelmed and uninvolved (incidentally, I don’t doubt that my love of Spider-man played a part in my above-average enjoyment of Marc Webb’s film). You don’t need a reason to like the character, you already do, and therefore the franchise’s inability to provide an emotional entry point will not hinder your enjoyment. It’s just that for me the character is dull, tedious and one-note – “cool” rather than interesting. The films, however supposedly complex, simply don’t engage me. And the fact that every superhero franchise going is now being rebooted in The Dark Knight‘s darker image is doing little to invite me to give it another try. Six films in and I still don’t have any real sense of who Wayne is as a person.

Still, there’s always a chance that the next one will be different; that The Dark Knight Rises will engage on an emotional level instead of exclusively an intellectual one. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s in it, after all. Maybe Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman (sorry, Selena Kyle) will bring some personality to the role of female foil in a way that neither Katie Holmes or Maggie Gyllenhaal could ever manage. Perhaps Tom Hardy’s Bane will provide a viable physical threat instead of just a cerebral one. And even if it doesn’t, this is the end of the road for Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale; maybe the reboot’s Justice League-compatible incarnation won’t be quite so self-serious, pretentious or impenetrable.

Regardless, let’s agree to disagree and leave it there. You can be Batman, and I’ll be someone else.

FILM NEWS: Summer of Cinema tease the months and movies to come

While the marked improvement in weather and later nights might indeed be some indication, nothing heralds the onset of summer with quite as much occasion as Summer of Cinema’s annual trailer for coming attractions.

True, there are a number of highlights (and, unfortunately, lowlights) that have already been and gone, the likes of The Lucky One, Dark Shadows and Marvel Avengers Assemble still making waves (and humping pies) in cinemas around the country, but for the most part the assorted footage sets out the road ahead for some of the most anticipated movies of the season. And, I suppose, The Dark Knight Rises, too.

With teasers for 51 films condensed into just one super-trailer, Summer of Cinema have effectively planned the next few month’s viewing with glimpses at Men in Black 3, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Amazing Spider-man, Brave, The Bourne Legacy and film to beat Prometheus, to name but a few. As for the trailer itself:

So what are you most looking forward to? As long as it’s not Top Cat – The Movie, feel free to leave your picks in the comments section below.

FILM NEWS: New trailers for everyone!

If your week has been as disastrous as mine, then you might be relieved to note that you have six whole minutes of relatively new footage teasing the many delights of summer, 2012 to perk you right back up in time for the weekend. Over the course of the last seven days, Hollywood has released the third and final trailers for Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-man.

And we’re talking proper, full-length trailers; none of this viral, first five minutes, trailers-for-trailers rubbish we have been drip fed over the last few months. So, with each trailer presented below, feast your eyes on three of the next few months’ most exciting cinematic releases. And The Dark Knight Rises.

So, without further ado…

Prometheus

“Mrs. Vickers, is there an agenda that you’re not telling us about?”

Last Sunday, fans of Channel 4’s utterly beguiling Homeland were treated to the world première of the latest trailerr for Prometheus when it débuted during the show’s first ad-break. Not as beautifully composed and delightfully enigmatic as the first full trailer, a masterclass in Goldilocks marketing, the new footage verged on giving away too much information, without the first’s truly heart-stopping pace.

That said, despite the fact that we know a little more about the overall shape of the narrative, this new trailer does little to jeopardise the near-crippling excitement Ridley Scott’s film has so far managed to generate. With Prometheus‘ ties to the director’s Alien clearer – and apparently stronger – than ever before, this is still the film to beat this year. Even if I’m still not 100% sold on Noomi Rapace’s British accent.

The Dark Knight Rises

“Your punishment must be more severe…”

Following mumble-gate, the clarity-related controversy that met the first trailer’s depiction of a grumbly (even for Christopher Nolan) and near-inaudible Bane, the latest trailer ramps up the sound to near-sarcastic levels. Hinting once more at the class wars threatening to tear Gotham apart, the footage gives off an air of desperation as Batman finally meets his match.

But Bane isn’t the star of this footage, with Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman (or Selina Kyle in a rather unimaginative eye mask) stepping out of the shadows for the first time since the promotional campaign began. Sadly, even this long-overdue reveal isn’t enough to purr some life into Nolan’s increasingly closed-off franchise. Sure, bridges collapse and someone flies a tank (I kid you not; and this is supposed to be the realistic superhero movie), but the director once again fails to give us a reason to care whether these characters live or die.

The Amazing Spider-man

“You’ve found my weakness – it’s small knives”

Up to this point, walking pun-magnet Marc Webb’s reboot of the nary decade-old Spider-man could have been described as darker, maturer, first person-ier, just about everything other than amazing. With its short-snouted Lizard, misconceived Spidey-cam and predominantly mask-less hero, the film had garnered almost as much unease as it had actual excitement.

But hey, at least Spider-man’s got his artificial web-shooters back; and man, does he put them to good use. The trailer is certainly high on spectacle and – reassuringly – smart alecry, and, the first-person gamer scenes aside, we may very well be in for a treat. With a tweaked origin story, bestial villain and, well, Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield in leading roles, The Amazing Spider-man could still deliver in a big way.

Ten 2012 Movies I Could Take Or Leave…Preferably Leave

With the year mapped out and the requisite drool reserves allocated to each of the releases I am most highly anticipating, I am left with a near-equal list of movies I don’t care much for at all. The cinematic landscape for the coming year is awash with bile, as Judd Apadow returns with another hateful bromance, Christian Bale’s career survives to let him grumble another day and G.I. Joe gives Development Hell the slip for a completely unnecessary second instalment. While other critics have their evil eyes set firmly on the upcoming 3D rerelease of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (let it slide, world. It’s time to make peace), I have other, decidedly less enticing things on my mind. Namely: Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill.

Man on a Ledge

Hollywood has had its fair share of the-clue-is-in-the-name film titles, with Snakes on a Plane, Cowboys & Aliens, We Bought a Zoo and (*spoiler alert*) The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford all springing immediately to mind. Man on a Ledge, however, manages to be so remarkably uninteresting that it instantly stands out from the crowd. We’ve already seen Man on Wire, after all. Sam Worthington wasn’t even interesting in 2010, the year in which he inexplicably starred in all of the movies, only Avatar surviving uniform dismissal by virtue of director James Cameron’s extraordinary vision and all of those flashing pixels. How he has been chosen to front another movie after the dismal Clash of the Titans is beyond me, even if all Summit Entertainment expect him to do is stand on a ledge. I bet he doesn’t even jump.

Jack and Jill

The latest Katie Holmes movie is never something to get particularly excited about, there was nobody camping overnight to see Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, but Jack and Jill takes this barely concealed indifference to a whole new level. Joining Lady Cruise on this occasion is Adam Sandler. And Adam Sandler. Apparently labouring under the delusion that The Nutty Professor I & II (along with every other Eddie Murphy movie produced in the 90s) was actually funny, Sandler has cast himself in the dual roles of Jack and Jill Sadelstein for little reason other than to herald some impending apocalypse. Shoot me please. In one eye for every character played by Adam Sandler.

Safe House

I’m sorry, but is it just me or have we seen this movie before? Like everything else in his back-catalogue, Ryan Reynolds stars as a low-hitting ubermensch who we – the imperfect masses – are supposed to root for simply because he is adrift in a completely fictitious job. Watching Ryan Reynolds under normal comedic circumstances is always trying enough, but the prospect of sitting through two joyless hours of him trying out his serious face opposite Denzel Washington (WHAT ARE YOU DOING, DENZEL WASHINGTON?) is nearly too much to bear.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

I don’t know about you, but when Nicolas Cage was first cast as the flame haired, leather-coated vengeance demon Johnny Blaze, I caughed a little bit of sick into my mouth. I’m sorry, what?? Naturally, the first Ghost Rider movie – with its boring story and Eva Mendez – was utterly terrible, and for the past four years we have been permitted the right to pretend that it was never in fact allowed to happen. Tasked with essentially rebooting the franchise, however, the filmmakers have somehow managed to make the same mistake AGAIN and have returned Cage to the role for another go at the character. Also, after Drive Angry, shouldn’t this really be Ghost Rider 3?

The Three Stooges

Having no doubt acclimatised to Development Hell during its decade-long stay, The Three Stooges aims to update the mid-20th Century sketch comedy of the same name for contemporary (read: even stupider) audiences. Boasting a plot that, for all intents and purposes, makes you want to kill yourself, the film focuses on Moe, Larry, and Curly, who inadvertently stumble into a murder plot, and wind up starring in a reality TV show while trying to save their childhood orphanage. I’m not even joking. Did I mention that it stars Sean Hayes from Will & Grace?

Battleship

Do you remember Battleship? It was the tactical, grid-warfare game that you could play on a page of squared paper if you really wanted to; the one that the Grim Reaper challenged Bill and Tedd to during their bogus journey. Do you remember the aliens? No? Oh, wait, that’s probably because there were no aliens. Hear that, Hollywood? NO ALIENS! Regardless, an upcoming adaptation housed at Universal Pictures is set to pit Liam Neeson, Rihanna and their boat against a myriad of extra terrestrial invaders. Naturally, the filmmakers were inspired by the financial success of MICHAEL BAY’s Transformers trilogy, and therefore, naturally, the film is going to be headache-inducing nonsense.

Snow White & The Huntsman

While most might laud Snow White & The Hunstman as fairest of them all in this, the year of the seven dwarves, I am forced by my utter hatred of this infernal darker is better movement to side with Mirror Mirror, however soul-shittingly awful it might appear to look. While it is impossible to get too riled by the absense of happy-clappy show tunes (the original fairy tale was, after all, a completely different beast), the rampant miserableness and unfathomable presence of body armour on show in the film’s trailer nevertheless have my heckles up. There’s already one Twilight movie due this year, we really don’t need another.

Ice Age 4: Continental Drift

The release of a new Ice Age, Blue Sky Entertainment’s flagship property, has always ranked pretty low on my must-see list. About as historically accurate as The Flinstones, the franchise proposes a history in which early man appears only initially, dinosaurs dawn AFTER the ice has melted, and a saber-toothed squirrel has continued adventures despite having been frozen in ice at the end of the first instalment. With nothing left to do but pair off the remaining characters (who wrote this, JK Rowling?), the ice age itself having ended whole movies ago now, this is one series of films that is practically begging for an extinction event.

The Dark Knight Rises

Oh shoosh, you must have seen this one coming. While it might indeed be the hype and the inevitably of the automated acclaim that I am dreading more than the actual movie (nobody’s suggesting this will be worse than Jack and Jill), there is still no denying that I would like nothing more than for Christopher Nolan to trot off back into the shadows and take his blasted interpretation of Batman with him. Now three movies in and not a single superhero in sight, I have spent the last – oh I don’t know, how long has it been since the last one? – listening to fanboy after fanboy ejaculate over every smidgeon of news pertaining to Bane, Catwoman and when the teaser for the viral for the trailer might hit. I just don’t care.

Halloween 3D

Torn arbitrarily between whether to include The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D or Halloween 3D on this list that nobody will read (or if they do, they will unlikely get past the previous entry), I finally settled on the latter on account of how unscary I have found the entire franchise to date. At least the story of an inbred maniac who wears the faces of his victims held interest over the course of a few movies (and even the requisite remake), Halloween, however, has been tedious from pretty much the beginning. A man named Michael Myers – ooh, the guy who played Shrek? Wearing an inside-out Captain Kirk mask? Scary – stabs babysitters with a knife. The end. Any acclaim received by the original Halloween movie was courtesy to John Carpenter’s direction, and John Carpenter’s direction alone. The fact that this one hasn’t even started filming yet just says it all.

January 2011 – It’s on like Donkey Kong

Since bringing in this new year with shots of Danish Aquavit and a sizeable slab of brie, I have tried to kick-start my year into shape and set my numerous resolutions into motion with a new blog and a new mindset. Thoroughly failing to reboot my life with a new job and daily productivity so far, I have nevertheless sustained a half-decent blog through the first month of 2011. Go team me.

Beginning the new year with the obligatory list of my 10 favourite movies of 2010 and a review of my highlights working for HeyUGuys, I also posed a series of actresses who might be able to save the inevitable Buffy reboot from total travesty. Wasting no time in rounding up my most anticipated and dreaded releases of this coming year, I was finally free to set about reviewing the films already taken by other writers for HeyUGuys and BestforFilm.

So far this year I have watched: The Kings Speech (magisterial), Bridge to Terabithia (surprisingly poignant), Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (disarming), Casino Royale (21 months early), Tangled (for which I have the monopoly with reviews at HUG, BFF and on this here blog), Tron: Legacy (snore), The X-Files: I Want to Believe (ponderous), 127 Hours (arresting), Cloverfield (engaging)  Blue Valentine (devastating), The Emperor’s New Groove (perfection), Step Up 3D (entertaining), Season of the Witch (crap), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (enchanting), The Green Hornet 3D (insulting), The Next Three Days (acceptable), Morning Glory (wonderful), Black Swan (infectious), Conviction (passable) and Hereafter (underestimated).

January was the month in which How to Train Your Dragon 2 was thoroughly demystified, Anne Hathaway and Tom Hardy were cast in The Dark Knight Rises and we caught our first glimpse of Andrew Garfield as Spider-man. January was also – as is often the case – home to Burns Night, spurring a list of the eight most random Scots cameos in film.

With 22 months remaining until the release of Bond 23, January also proved the perfect opportunity for a franchise retrospective. Joining The Invisible Suit and a whole host of other bloggers, I have endeavoured to watch a Bond movie a month for the BlogalongaBond challenge.  Starting 2011 with Dr. No, I have only 21 months left until I am free of this beautifully pointless exercise.

So, January has been a busy month. While I have yet to escape to greener (journalism-centric) pastures, I have founded a place to vent my frustration at idiotic customer questions and commit my overwhelming popcornaddiction to web.

Film of the month: Morning Glory.

FILM NEWS: Anne Hathaway and Tom Hardy join The Dark Knight Rises as Catwoman and Bane respectively

This is not yet another wooping praise of Christopher Nolan’s casting decisions for his trilogy-ending Bat-film, The Dark Knight Rises, the man has always had a very good eye for actresses and actors; I am the first to admit that Liam Neeson can be incredibly good, as can Heath Ledger and Cillian Murphy. Similarly, I am a huge fan of Anne Hathaway and Tom Hardy, finding Love and Other Drugs and Inception incredibly enjoyable. However, I have found that while Nolan peppers his film’s with substantial talent, he sets about wasting his actors with relentless abandon.

I am not a fan of Batman Begins or The Dark Knight, I like my superheroes super and my superhero movies brimming with awesome fun. I find Nolan’s forays into the genre incredibly dull and tiresome, his clunking excuses for humour and blinding pursuit of realism a subversion too far for a once-passable character in the hands of Tim Burton. I love Hellboy‘s irreverent sarcasm, Spider-man‘s witty asides and the sheer likeability of Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass; but while each movie has its respective dark moments, they find the time between frowns to remind you why the character was so popular in the first place.

To date, Christopher Nolan has created a growly Batman who wouldn’t know a smile if it lumbered him with Bat-nipples, a Scarecrow who is repetitively mugged of his deserved place in the limelight and a complete dud of a Ra’s al Ghul. Sure, Heath Ledger was impressively psycho but having defeated a swarm of ninjas and saved Gotham from a certifiable biohazard, it was a bt of a step down to watch Christian Bale struggle to defeat one man and his cumbersome neurosis. It took guts to kill off the film’s (distractingly re-cast) heroine before movie’s end, but she was such a faceless character that the sacrifice failed to make any impact whatsoever – particularly in light of the truly moving death of Hit Girl’s Big Daddy half way through Kick-Ass. I choked up.

However, there is yet hope. While I still maintain that Batman Returns is the greatest Batman movie ever made – largely down to Michelle Pfeiffer’s delightfully sassy Catwoman – this new casting news at least shows that the character is in good hands. Finally, a super-villain who threatens to get past Bale’s irritating growl and evoke some semblance of emotion from his boringly stoic Batman. Similarly, Hardy was easily the best thing in Inception, his banterous Brit giving the audience at least one character to care about amid a wardrobe of identi-kit suits. He hardly has much to live up to (Bane’s last appearance on screen was in the much maligned Batman and Robin) but threatens to give the character the live-action treatment he probably deserves.

While I’m still far from excited about this sequel to 2008’s “Best Superhero Movie Of All Time” (puh-lease!), I live in hope of a Christopher Nolan directed Batman movie which isn’t a chore to watch. Sure, they are technical achievements on many levels, but they lack any beating heart or entertainment value. Maybe the character did need a reboot after George Clooney hammed him up good-and-proper, but I have yet to be convinced that what he needed was a fun-ectomy. Having settled on a feline-empowered thief and a superpowered hulk, however, perhaps this time Batman and his ridiculous costume won’t look so out of place in their own movie.