Film » Film Clips

Film Clips

The Dark Knight, Mamma Mia! among capsule reviews of films playing in Charlotte

by

comment

Current Releases

THE DARK KNIGHT Given the fact that Christopher Nolan's 2005 Batman Begins ranks as one of the best superhero flicks ever made, then where does that put this sequel that manages to be even more phenomenal than its predecessor? Certainly, it places it somewhere at the head of the class, and there's a nice symmetry to its release date: After all, it was 30 years ago that the Christopher Reeve version of Superman – still the greatest of all comic book adaptations – was released, and now we have its equal on the other side of the aisle, a superhero saga that's as dark and deep as its forefather was cheery and colorful. In fact, this might be the first superhero movie that exudes a palpable sense of dread and menace that tugs at our nerves in a way that both disturbs and delights us. Even in superior entertainment like Spider-Man and Iron Man, there's a feeling that it's all make-believe, but The Dark Knight offers no such safety net – it wears its danger on its sleeve. In this outing, Batman (Christian Bale) has done a fine job of tightening the reins around the mob bosses who have long controlled Gotham City, and he's soon aided in his efforts by idealistic district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). But their combined attempts to corral the city's crooks are hampered by the presence of a murderous psychopath known as The Joker (Heath Ledger). Eckhart stands out in what proves to be the picture's most fully realized characterization, though we all know who's the MVP of this particular show: The late Ledger is simply mesmerizing as this whirling dervish of cackling, lip-smacking, cheek-sucking sin. ****

GET SMART Get Smart, the TV sitcom that aired from 1965 to 1970, was created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, and these legendary funnymen are listed in the credits of this spin-off as "creative consultants." The word is that neither actually had any real input in this movie, which probably explains why major facets differ from what fans fondly recall about the show. But in at least one respect, there's a striking similarity: Both have no problem providing the laughs. In the hit series, Don Adams starred as bumbling agent Maxwell Smart while Barbara Feldon played his more competent partner, Agent 99. Working for a government unit known as C.O.N.T.R.O.L., the secret agents had their hands full protecting the world from the rival outfit K.A.O.S. In this update, which seems as much a James Bond spoof as a Get Smart homage, the plot similarly finds Steve Carell's Maxwell Smart and Anne Hathaway's Agent 99 out to stop K.A.O.S. head Siegfried (Terence Stamp). All of the performers (including Alan Arkin and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) are given a scene or two in which to shine, although most of the best set pieces belong to the leads. There's a ballroom sequence involving Maxwell and a hefty dance partner that's surprisingly sweet-natured – for once, a film honors an overweight person rather than simply making fun – while Agent 99 gets off a monologue that culminates in a sentimental mention of her mom. And therein lies much of the appeal of this big-screen Get Smart: In between the gags and the action scenes, there's an identifiable human element at work, and this empathy prevents this from being just another big, dumb summer comedy. ***

HANCOCK The idea behind Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" can be applied to this sci-fi outing that, somewhat surprisingly, ends up taking the path "less traveled by." Yet equally surprising is the fact that this enjoyable film would have been even better had it played out as expected. The premise is irresistible: Hancock (Will Smith) is an alcoholic, antisocial superhero whose crimefighting exploits usually end up causing millions of dollars in damage to the city of Los Angeles. The residents have had enough of him, and the police even have a warrant out for his arrest. Hancock couldn't care less until PR guy Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), despite protests from his wife (Charlize Theron), decides he's going to help Hancock overhaul his public image by transforming him from a menace to society into a hero worthy of respect. The first half sprints with this plotline, resulting in a movie that's consistently funny and inventive – even the typically heavy-handed direction by Peter Berg (The Kingdom) can't dilute the fun. But without warning, scripters Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan orchestrate a major plot pirouette, one that dramatically changes the relationships between the characters and allows a sharp satire to mutate into (in no order) a melodrama, a romance, a tragedy, and a myth-building muddle. No movie should survive such a clumsy shift, and yet this manages to get back on its feet, thanks in no small part to the conviction that Smith and Theron bring to their roles. Audience members willing to hop aboard this emotional roller coaster ride will respond to the resultant pathos far better than viewers wondering why the laughs suddenly went MIA. **1/2

Add a comment