“The Dark Knight Rises” review


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To say that “The Dark Knight Rises” has a lot to live up to just might qualify as the biggest understatement of the year. The follow-up to Christopher Nolan’s record-breaking 2008 sequel “The Dark Knight,” and the final chapter in the award-winning director’s critically praised Batman trilogy, “The Dark Knight Rises” has been one of the industry’s most closely watched projects since the credits rolled on its predecessor.

And that’s why it’s so unfortunate that, in his last adventure under Nolan’s guidance, the Dark Knight never quite rises to the occasion.

Possibly the most egregious flaw in “The Dark Knight Rises” is that the character we see the least of in the film is, well… Batman. For a film that clocks in at nearly three hours of running time, we get only four or five major sequences with Christian Bale in the cape and cowl. Over the course of the film’s 165 minutes, Bale’s Bruce Wayne seems relegated to a supporting role, and someone we check in with occasionally instead of the narrative’s main character.

Make no mistake: Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are clearly Nolan’s focal points in “The Dark Knight Rises,” and their time on the screen reflects this fact.

Of course, that’s not to say Nolan’s focus on Hathaway and Gordon-Levitt is a bad thing, as the pair happen to provide the film’s best performances. As Selina Kyle (who’s never actually referred to as Catwoman in the film), Hathaway manages to prove skeptics (including myself) wrong with a pitch-perfect portrayal of Gotham’s greatest cat burglar, and finds just the right nuances of moral ambiguity and personality to bring the character to life in Nolan’s Bat-verse.

Gordon-Levitt also does a nice job of playing feet-on-the-ground cop John Blake, who struggles to define his role in a world filled with costumed heroes and villains. Sadly, his prominence in the narrative seems to come at the expense of Gary Oldman’s return as police commissioner Jim Gordon, who seems to have become just another flawed cog in the Gotham machine in the time since the last film.

Oldman’s character isn’t the only one to have undergone some drastic, fundamental changes since the last film, either.

Along with Jim Gordon’s shift from paragon of urban wisdom to burned-out relic, Batman himself seems to have forgotten many of the lessons he learned in the earlier films. In “The Dark Knight Rises,” we’re presented with a Batman who charges into fights without thinking and overlooks important information, and a Bruce Wayne who shows little regard for the still-living people in his life and callously disregards his most trusted friend. (It’s this last element that relegates Michael Caine’s role to nothing more than a series of scenes in which he cries at Christian Bale for several minutes.) It’s the sort of situation that usually develops when a new director takes over an existing franchise, and seems odd in the continuity of Nolan’s meticulously shepherded Batman universe.

Still, none of these flaws are as destructive to “The Dark Knight Rises” as the film’s villain, Bane, who manages to cause just as much damage to the fictional city of Gotham as he does to the movie itself.

It’s worth noting right from the start that none of the problems with Bane rest on the shoulders of the actor who played the hulking, masked behemoth, Tom Hardy. The British actor does everything asked of him to the best of his considerable talents, and were it not for a number of factors outside his control, he’d likely provide the standout performance in the film. Sadly, those factors are present in the film, and they make Hardy’s character memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Months ago, when some early footage of “The Dark Knight Rises” was screened for a select audience, Bane’s muffled, unintelligible dialogue caused enough controversy to put the studio into damage-control mode, with Warner Brothers and Nolan seeming to be at odds over how to handle the villain’s mask-induced garble. Their answer, it seems, was to waver between two extremes. At times Bane sounds like a circus ringmaster trying to reach the cheap seats with a dollar-bin megaphone, and at other times his dialogue has all the clarity of a subway intercom system. The gritty realism of the surrounding film only amplifies the silliness of Bane’s dialogue.

Still, if there is one positive to come out of the troubles with Bane’s voice, it’s that you barely notice Bale’s Bat-growl, which earned more than a few unintentional laughs during “The Dark Knight,” but seems entirely tolerable alongside Bane’s over-dubbed, sideshow-barker tone.

Unfortunately, the film’s villain has problems with more than just his dialogue. Without venturing too far into spoiler territory, Bane’s intentions with regard to Gotham and its protector go from uncertain to outright contradictory over the course of the film, with the character flip-flopping between a desire to empower Gotham’s populace (at times seeming like the spokesperson for the real-world Occupy movement) and an urge to obliterate every living person in the city. The end result is a character that never quite sells the whole “criminal genius” thing, and instead comes off as a bit, well… crazy.

Of course, this flaw with Bane is likely a result of the character being shoehorned into a role that was meant for Heath Ledger and The Joker, who would have been right at home as the orchestrator of the chaos that overtakes Gotham. It’s during the moments when Bane seems the most out of place that you can see how perfectly Ledger’s Joker would’ve fit in the film.

Even with so many problems, however, “The Dark Knight Rises” still manages to meet – and occasionally exceed – expectations in some of the areas that will play the biggest role in the film’s success with the mainstream audiences. Nolan’s trademark grasp of breathtaking visuals and fantastic cinematography are on full display in “The Dark Knight Rises,” and the film features a number of set pieces – including the catastrophic destruction of Gotham’s football stadium – that set the film apart from nearly everything else in theaters. While it never achieves at the level of a film like “Inception,” “The Dark Knight Rises” is full of reminders that it is a film made by one of the industry’s greatest visual directors.

Also to its credit, “The Dark Knight Rises” manages to avoid the traditional pitfalls of the third movie in a genre franchise. It never feels overcrowded or rushed, though it does contain a few obvious, forced tie-ins to the greater universe that feel jammed in at the last moment.

However, none of these achievements change the fact that the film falls short of expectations, and rather than being the grand finale of the franchise, it ends up being both the weakest film in the trilogy and the weakest superhero movie of the year thus far. Sadly, “The Dark Knight Rises” never manages to match the epic spectacle of “The Avengers,” the genuine pathos of “Chronicle” (a comic book movie without a comic), or the earnest, heroic heart of “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

While there’s little doubt that the concluding chapter of his trilogy will earn a pile of money, one can’t help thinking that Nolan has done the next Batman director a favor by taking a bar that was set to an almost unreachable height after “The Dark Knight” and lowering it to a more manageable level with the serviceable but under-achieving concluding tale that is “The Dark Knight Rises.”

“The Dark Knight Rises” hits theaters Friday, July 20.

THE EXORCIST [US 1973]  LINDA BLAIR     Date: 1973

Take This Quiz for a Spin

The Power Compels You to Take the Exorcist Movie Quiz

Catch an all-day Exorcist marathon on Sunday, November 1st.

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The Exorcist is a modern horror classic thanks to many of its haunting images: the ominous stairwell, the spider walk, the face of the demon. Before you catch IFC’s all-day Exorcist movie marathon on November 1st, take this quiz to see how well you remember the film, its sequels and its influence in pop culture.



Pox Kegger

This Is How the Benders Throw a Chickenpox Party

It's a Pox Kegger on tonight's all-new Benders.

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On this week’s Benders, Paul and Karen take their relationship to the next level when they both get the chickenpox. What do you bring to a chickenpox party? Chicken wings? A bucket of pox?

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For us, a sick day is best spent on the day on the couch, watching episodes of Portlandia on Netflix (guessing!) eating bowls of chicken soup, and sipping weak tea. But Karen didn’t count on the team spirit that binds Paul’s amateur hockey team together. So when the Chubbys find out that one of their teammates is in need, they have no choice but to be there for him–whether his wife likes it or not. Find out what happens when Benders airs tonight at 10P on IFC.


Don't Act Your Age

10 Actors Who Went Old

Catch David Krumholtz on Gigi Does It tonight at 10:30P on IFC.

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You always hear about older actors clinching to their youth by taking on vastly younger, age-inappropriate roles. (The collective age of the 90210 cast, especially in later seasons, was definitely in the hundreds.) But those thespians who choose to age up — through the use of prosthetics, makeup, or otherwise — often deliver astounding performances.

Take David Krumholtz. On the new IFC series Gigi Does It, the actor plays Gigi, a 76-year-old yenta who’s determined to live life to the fullest after her late husband leaves her with a crap ton of moolah.

In honor of his achievements — and those who’ve paved the way for Gigi — here are some celebrities who have successfully infiltrated the senior citizens club.

1. David Krumholtz, Gigi’s Bucket List



Krumholtz is pulling a Mrs. Doubtfire — who we’ll get to in a moment — with Gigi. Whether bossing around her male nurse or talking about flashing her boob to her grandson, Krumholtz seems to be having a blast as his raunchy alter ego.

2. Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


You can’t talk about actors portraying the elderly without acknowledging that infamously fictional affliction, Benjamin Button’s Disease. Brad Pitt portrays the title role of a man who ages backwards after being physically born as an old person. It’s everyone’s dream, right — the older you get, the younger you look? A mixture of computer-generated effects and makeup went into this transformation, and it’s still difficult to look away.

3. Tilda Swinton, The Grand Budapest Hotel


Swinton is the true mistress of disguise. She has made a living by completely losing herself in her characters, whether its playing the traditionally male archangel Gabriel in Constantine, the evil witch in The Chronicles of Narnia, or the toothy one-percenter of Snowpiercer. With Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, she once again became unrecognizable as one of the elderly lovers of the hotel’s concierge. She’s got the senile look and feel down pat.

4. Johnny Knoxville, Bad Grandpa


For his latest Jackass movie, Knoxville took his shenanigans to a new level in portraying Irving Zisman, the elderly bad influence in his grandson’s life. In the same vein as his previous stunts, he pranked real-life people with his prosthetically enhanced persona, crashing a wedding by knocking over an entire display, ruining a child pageant, and “making it rain” on a stripper.

5. Robin Williams, Mrs. Doubtfire


Remember that famous story about the late Robin Williams strolling into a sex shop in NYC as Mrs. Doubtfire? That’s how committed he was and how unrecognizable he was as the lovable nanny. Just like David Krumholtz, Williams underwent a hefty makeup and prosthetic process, and it will always go down as one of his most memorable roles.

6. Dustin Hoffman, Little Big Man


Paramount Films

While Krumholtz is 37 going on 76, Dustin Hoffman was 33 going on 121 for this acclaimed role. The 1970 Arthur Penn film Little Big Man told of an oral historian who comes across an elderly man (Hoffman) who has one crazy story to tell. It’s a tale of gunslinging, selling snake oil and the infamous Battle of the Little Bighorn. But most astonishing of all is the sight of Hoffman in character.

7. Meryl Streep, Angels in America


Meryl Streep played several roles in the HBO adaptation of Tony Kushner’s acclaimed play. You might have missed her the first time around because she looks like just one of the rabbis, especially when she sits next to a line of them. Yes, that’s the Oscar winner as Rabbi Isidor Chemelwitz, and if you listen carefully, you can pick out her voice under the heavy white beard.

8. Helena Bonham Carter, Big Fish


Much like Tilda Swinton, Helena Bonham Carter comes alive when you bury her in layers of makeup, prosthetics and elaborate costumes. Before debuting as Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the actress portrayed another kind of enchantress in Tim Burton’s Big Fish. She looks just as home with a wrinkled face and glass eye as she does flaunting a bubbly, sparkling ball gown as the Fairy Godmother in the Disney remake of Cinderella.

9. Guy Pearce, Prometheus


20th Century Fox

In Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, Guy Pearce aged himself way up to play the financial backer of an interstellar expedition who hopes to find some means of extending his life. What’s more shocking: the existence of the Engineers or how Guy resides underneath all that old-man makeup?

10. James D’Arcy, Cloud Atlas


Warner Bros.

The Wachowski’s Cloud Atlas may not have been the most well-received film, critically speaking, but it did feature incredible transformations from its actors, most of which portrayed more than one role. James D’Arcy took on four roles, two of which were the young and old versions of Rufus Sixsmith.


Sweatpants 4 Ever

5 Great Moments in Sweatpants History

Spend Thanksgiving in sweatpants with IFC's Sweatsgiving Weekend.

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Photo Credit: United Artists/courtesy Everett Collection

Ah, sweatpants. They give us so much and ask for so little. Before you pull out your sweats for IFC’s Sweatsgiving weekend, take a moment to remember some iconic moments in sweatpants history.

5. Regina George wears sweatpants in public, Mean Girls

Regina George Mean Girls

Head “mean girl” Regina George discovers the wonderfully elastic qualities of sweatpants after gaining weight from the Kalteen bars Cady gave her.

4. Meg Ryan watches TV in sweatpants, Sleepless in Seattle

Everett Collection

Everett Collection

In the ultimate meta movie moment, Meg Ryan watches TV on the couch in sweatpants while scarfing on popcorn. This process would be repeated a million times over in the real world with every Meg Ryan movie ever made.

3. Johnny Depp hangs out in sweats, A Nightmare on Elm Street

Johnny Depp A Nightmare on Elm Street

Johnny Depp burst onto the movie scene in the original Nightmare on Elm Street, forever immortalizing the sweatpants and a half-shirt look. And then he was never heard from again. Whatever happened to that guy? Be sure to catch his one and only film when A Nightmare on Elm Street airs Friday, November 27th during IFC’s Sweatsgiving weekend.

2. Rocky jogs through Philly, Rocky franchise

Rocky Balboa

Robert “Rocky” Balboa brought sweatpants into movie history thanks to his triumphant training montage in Rocky. The sweatpants returned in Rocky II and Rocky Balboa, hopefully thoroughly washed.

1. That time you hung out in sweatpants and watched awesome shows and movies, IFC’s Sweatsgiving Weekend

What better way to spend Thanksgiving weekend than in your sweatpants while watching your favorite IFC shows and hit movies? All weekend long starting Thanksgiving day, IFC is airing marathons of That ’70s Show and Todd Margaret. Plus, you can scare off the calories with Nightmare on Elm Street, The Exorcist and Resident Evil movie marathons. And since you’re spending the weekend on the couch, be sure to tweet or Instagram a selfie while watching IFC with the hashtag #IFCSweatsgiving and you’ll be entered to win a sweet pair of IFC pants. Because if history has taught us anything, it’s that you can never have too many pairs of comfy pants.

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