Friday, July 20, 2012

"The Dark Knight Rises" (2012)

Starring Christian Bale, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy
Written by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language
Running Time: 165 Minutes

Eight years after the events of "The Dark Knight," billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) lives as a recluse in his mansion outside Gotham City.  Depressed over the loss of his love, and the sacrifice he made as Batman to protect the reputation of Harvey Dent, he hasn't been seen out in public in years.  Every year, Gotham celebrates Harvey Dent Day, the day that Gotham pulled itself together and rid itself of organized crime, galvanized in the wake of Dent's supposed murder at the hands of the Batman.

Wayne Enterprises is faltering.  Bruce sank a ton of money into a mysterious clean energy project which went belly-up, and the board is threatening to kick him.  His only ally is Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), who believes that risk is part of the game when you need to save the world.

But not all is well in Gotham.  The name on everyone's lips is... Bane.  A masked and ruthless terrorist, Bane (Tom Hardy) has allied himself with Gotham business man John Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn), who has hired career thief Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) to break into Wayne Manor during the Dent Day celebration and steal Bruce Wayne's fingerprints.  But when Daggett tries to screw Kyle over for her payment, Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman), suffering over the guilt of the lies he's built to protect Harvey Dent, leads the chase into Gotham's sewers and discovers Bane.

Gordon barely survives, and begs for the return of the Batman to save Gotham from whatever it is Bane is planning.  He recruits a hot-headed beat cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to be his new right-hand man as he spearheads the investigation into Bane's plans from his hospital room.  Meanwhile, when Batman does make a return appearance, Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley (Matthew Modine) becomes obsessed with capturing him, determined to prove his worth to the mayor for Gordon's job.

But Bane's plans are bigger, more devious, and more insidious than anyone could possibly imagine.  And the Batman will face his greatest threat, an apocalyptic nightmare that could destroy the entire city.  With millions of lives hanging in the balance, Batman will discover just how far he can be pushed, and how much he can give, before he breaks.

Friday, July 13, 2012

"Spider-Man" (2002)

Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and Willem Dafoe
Written by David Koepp
Directed by Sam Raimi
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language
Running Time: 121 Minutes

In 2002, not long after "Blade" and "X-Men" had blasted open the comic book superhero movie genre, Sam Raimi brought Marvel's beloved Spider-Man to the screen.

Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is a mild-mannered high school senior, put down upon and laughed at by pretty much everyone in his school.  He's had a crush on the girl next door, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) since forever, and lives with his kindly Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson).  His best and only friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco) tries to help him be more confident, but Peter's just too shy.

One day, while on a field trip to a local science lab, Peter is bitten by a genetically engineered "super-spider." Peter develops fantastic powers, including the ability to stick to walls, increased agility and strength, and he can shoot super-strong webs out of his wrists.  He quickly realizes that he can use these gifts to make money in order to impress Mary Jane, and lies to his uncle about going to the library to study.  Instead, he enters an amateur wrestling match, where the announcer dubs him "the amazing Spider-Man!"  After the match, he's stiffed on the money he's won, and a robber gets the rest.  Peter lets him go, thinking that it's not his problem.

Unfortunately, the robber runs outside and carjacks Uncle Ben, killing him.  In a rage, Peter hunts him down and the robber is accidentally killed.  Peter remembers his uncle's advice to him - that with great power comes great responsibility, and he decides to dedicate using his powers to doing good.

Meanwhile, Harry's father, Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) is desperate to prove that his company's performance enhancing drugs will work, and secure a contract with the United States military. So desperate, in fact, that he tests it on himself.  And while the drug does in fact make him stronger, it also fractures his personality and Norman becomes the Green Goblin.  When Spider-Man interferes with Goblin's attempt to murder the company's board of directors, Goblin realizes Spider-Man will have to be destroyed before he can continue with his plans.

Friday, July 6, 2012

"Immortals" (2011)

Starring Henry Cavill, Stephen Dorff and Mickey Rourke
Written by Vlas Parlapanides and Charles Parlapanides
Directed by Tarsem Singh
Rated R - Violence, language, gore, nudity
Running Time: 110 Minutes

Before the rise of man, the gods waged war against the Titans.  During the war, a powerful weapon known as the Epirus Bow was lost. The Titans were defeated and imprisoned in Mount Tartarus, and the gods, led by Zeus (Luke Evans) are banned from interfering in the development of mankind unless the Titans are released.

Theseus (Henry Cavill) is a young man who lives with his single mother.  His mother is abused and called a whore by the other people of their village for having had a bastard son.  He spends his days being taught by a kindly old man (John Hurt) who teaches him to defend the weak and the innocent.  Word comes to the village that King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) who is seeking the Epirus Bow in order to release the Titans, is on his way and the village must be evacuated.  When Theseus and his mother are barred from leaving with the more affluent villagers, he gets into a fight with one of the soldiers, Lysander (Joseph Morgan).  Lysander's commander Helios (Peter Stebbings) is impressed with Theseus' skills as a warrior, and strips Lysander of his rank.

Humiliated, Lysander defects to Hyperion's ranks and informs him of the location of Theseus' village.  Hyperion is searching for an oracle who he believes will lead him to the location of the Epirus Bow.  The oracle, Phaedra (Frieda Pinto), is on the run, knowing that she can never allow Hyperion access to her visions.  Hyperion invades Theseus' village, killing Theseus' mother and capturing Theseus himself.

Soon enough, Theseus meets Phaedra and a distraction provided by the god Poseidon (Kellan Lutz) allows them to escape.  Burying his mother, he finds the Epirus Bow, but eventually loses it to Hyperion.  Now Theseus must learn to lead his people in battle to defend Tartarus from Hyperion, and expect no more help from the gods to save mankind.

"John Carter" (2012)

Starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins and Samantha Morton
Written by Andrew Stanton, Michael Andrews and Michael Chabon
Directed by Andrew Stanton
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language
Running Time: 132 Minutes

Confederate Captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) of Virginia finds himself in a jam when he's captured by Union soldiers in Arizona who intend to conscript him to duty against the local Apaches.  Instead, Carter escapes and takes refuge in a mysterious cave where he's attacked by a strange man who mutters words in a foreign language.  Suddenly, a burst of blue energy transports Carter to the planet Mars, known to the locals as Barsoom.

There, Carter is captured by Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe), Jeddak or king of the Tharks, a race of green martian warriors.  Instead of being killed, Tars Tarkas takes a liking to Carter after the human displays incredible powers thanks to his denser bones and muscles and the lower gravity of Mars.  Carter is able to leap across huge distances and is stronger than any martian warrior.

Meanwhile, a race of red-skinned martian men who look human except for their red skin, led by Sab Than (Dominic West), Jeddak of Zodanga, wage war on the red-skinned martians of Helium. Sab Than has been given a powerful weapon that harnesses the energy from the 9th Ray (whatever that means), making him unbeatable.  He was given this power by the Therns, a race of beings martians believe mythical.

Helium is ruled by Jeddak Tardos Mors (Cirian Hinds), who has promised Sab Than the hand of his daughter Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) in marriage to end the war.  Dejah tries to escape and is hunted down by Sab Than.  Carter rescues her, but after she and Carter enter the Thark temple without permission, they are banished along with Carter's new pet Woola (a sort of alien dog) and Tars Tarkas' daughter, Sola (Samantha Morton).  The three travel to the south to discover a means of sending Carter back to Earth, but instead discover that the Therns have control of the powerful energies Sab Than is using against the forces of Helium, and that they can send Carter home.

But Dejah and Carter are captured and brought to Helium, where Dejah will be forced to marry Sab Than, who intends to sack the city anyway.  Meanwhile, Carter learns that the Thern Matai Shang (Mark Strong) is not only manipulating Mars toward its destruction, but may plan to do the same to Earth.  Carter must figure out a way to defeat Sab Than and the Therns and save the Princess of Mars.

"Justice League: Doom" (2012)

Starring Kevin Conroy, Tim Daily and Nathan Fillion
Written by Dwayne McDuffie
Directed by Lauren Montgomery
Rated PG-13 - Language, violence
Running Time: 77 Minutes

Batman (Kevin Conroy) and the rest of the Justice League, including Superman (Tim Daly), Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), Flash (Michael Rosenbaum), Martian Manhunter (Carl Lumbly), and Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion) break up a robbery by the Royal Flush Gang.  With help from Cyborg (Bumper Robinson), Batman determines that the gang is using phase-shifting technology to walk through walls and steal diamonds.  But interrogating the gang on how and where they got such information is fruitless.

Soon after, the villains Bane (Carlos Alazraqui), Cheetah (Claudia Black), Metallo (Paul Blackthorne), Star Sapphire (Olivia d'Abo), Mirror Master (Alexis Denisof), and Ma'alefa'ak (Carl Lumbly) are brought together by the immortal Vandal Savage (Phil Morris).  He gives them each an assignment to take out a member of the Justice League, and informs them exactly how to do it.  In return, they each receive $100 million, and a promise of greater wealth and power in the future.

And so the Legion of Doom systematically and simultaneously takes out each member of the Justice League.  Bane buries Batman alive in his own father's grave.  Metallo shoots Superman in the chest with a kryptonite bullet.  Green Lantern is forced to face his own failure, and his will is broken.  Flash is fitted with a bomb that will explode if he stops running.  Wonder Woman is drugged and believes she is fighting multiple versions of Cheetah - but is actually beating up every person she sees.  Martian Manhunter is poisoned so that he sweats magnesium, and is then lit on fire.

But the most devastating revelation of all may be the source of Savage's information: Batman's own files on the League, and the contingency plans he created to take the heroes down should the occasion arise.

Now the Justice League must pull together and defeat the villains before Vandal Savage can unleash his true plan to take over the entire world.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"The Amazing Spider-Man" (2012)

Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans
Written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves
Directed by Marc Webb
Rated PG-13 - Language, superhero violence
Running Time: 136 Minutes

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a teenager at Midtown High School, where he lives a fairly anonymous life.  He has few friends, is practically invisible to women, and occasionally suffers humiliation at the hands of jock bully Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka).  He has a crush on hottie science nerd Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) but lacks the guts to ask her out.  Peter lives with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen), a kindly blue-collar couple in Queens, after his parents mysteriously disappeared years earlier.

One evening, while cleaning out the basement, Peter finds an old briefcase that belonged to his father.  Hidden inside is a revolutionary formula for combining the genetics of two species of animal.  Determined to find out more about his father and what he was working on, Peter sneaks into OsCorp to meet his father's old colleague Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).  He finds that Connors is still working on genetic combinations in order to regrow his amputated right arm.  While sneaking around Oscorp, Peter breaks into a high security lab where he is bitten by a genetically-engineered spider created as part of his father's and Connors' project.

The spider imbues Peter with a host of incredible super powers.  He can stick to walls, has enhanced agility and speed, and a "spider-sense" that allows him to sense danger and be more aware of his surroundings.  Despite his excitement over this new development, his relationship with Uncle Ben and Aunt May begins to fray.  One night after a fight, Peter runs out of the house.  Uncle Ben goes to follow him.  After Peter declines to stop a convenience store robbery, Uncle Ben steps in, and is shot by the perp.

Peter decides to use his new powers to track down the man who murdered Ben.  After his first attempt goes disastrously wrong, Peter realizes he'll need to hide his identity in order to continue his search, and fashions a mask.  Soon enough, he's created an entire costume and an identity, and continues trying to track down the criminal with the unique tattoo who killed his uncle.

Connors, meanwhile, is under a great deal of pressure.  His boss, Rajit Ratha (Irrfat Khan), is pressing him to make progress on his projects in order to save the life of Oscorp's owner, Norman Osborn.  When Ratha tells Connors he intends to test his new serum on unwitting patients at a nearby veteran's hospital, Connors tries to beat him to the punch by testing it on himself.  The results are, at first, incredible, but soon enough the terrifying truth emerges: Connors' new serum intermittently turns him into a huge lizard-like beast with incredible regenerative powers.  As Connors behavior grows more and more obsessive and out of control, Peter realizes that he must put aside his own vendetta, embrace his responsibility, and become a true hero.