Movie Review: The Dark Knight

**Updated with SarahG’s review at bottom**

By Ross Miller

It must be at least 18 months since the hype machine was started up for The Dark Knight. It may not have appeared on the average movie goer’s radar until a couple of months before the movie was actually released but for people who spend half their life on the Internet this was followed meticulously from photograph to photograph, new trailer to new trailer, and it got to a point where it seemed no matter how good the movie was, it wouldn’t live up to the hype and expectations.

Well, I’m here to tell you, like so many others before me, that The Dark Knightlives up to all of that, delivering the quality that everyone wanted and a plethora of unexpected aspects thrown in for good measure. This is expansive yet meticulous filmmaking; an epic, all-enveloping crime tale hidden under the disguise of a comic book movie.

Carrying directly on from Batman Begins, The Dark Knight sees Batman and Lieutenant Gordon join forces with newly appointed DA Harvey Dent to take on a psychopathic criminal known as The Joker. Simultaneously they have to combat other forces, such as the mob, which are still persisting as the core problem within Gotham City, whilst The Joker’s crimes grow more and more deadly.

With Batman Begins, director Christopher Nolan took a pretty much dead franchise and breathed fresh life into it. He managed to make people forgive the movie making industry for the atrocity that was Batman & Robin and we were free to have faith in the character and all it has to offer once again. It was gritty, realistic, and showed the true, dark nature of the character with none of the colourful candy layered on top that some of the previous films had. However, Nolan and company have done what I didn’t think was possible — they have surpassed the quality set by the predecessor and made not only the best comic book movie ever made, but a film that transcends the genre and could more accurately be described as an epic, expansive crime story that just happens to have a comic book character in it.

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Movie Review: Mamma Mia! (2008)

20 year old Sophie (Seyfried) is preparing to marry her boyfriend Sky (Cooper) at her mother’s hotel on an island in Greece. She seemingly has it all; a carefree life, loving boyfriend and happy friends but one thing has been missing all her life; a father.

I have to admit that when we decided to see Mama Mia!, my family and  I wasn’t sure what I would make of it at all. I know Abba songs like the back of my hand, never saw the musical but was sure I might dance a long at some stage. For sure I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Mama Mia! has a certain charm to it that you can’t ignore and I’m sure it will be one of the biggest hits of the summer.

The appeal of Mama Mia! is set in the songs and the brilliant cast. All the songs tell Sophie’s story well and you begin to like the characters a lot, but most likely Meryl Streep’s character Donna. Donna is unaware of her daughter’s actual father, any of the 3 leading men we see in the film; Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan and Stellan Skarsgård. All three do sing in the film and at times it can be quite funny. I’m sure not everyone wants to see the last James Bond actor sing his heart out to SOS or Stellen Skarsgard sing Take a Chance on Me, but really folks forget all that and just enjoy a fabulous film. I know Brosnan took a year of singing lessons and doesn’t sound bad at all. Not so sure about the paring of Streep and Brosnan but that was only a minor flaw.


The set for Mama Mia!, that being in the Greek Islands looks lovely on screen and some great shots of the actual island on helicopter which really gives you that “summer feeling” and actually made me forgets seriously analysing this film, if you see what I mean. Naturally the choreography is brilliant, most notably with Dancing Queen which, If I had the chance, I would have danced near my seat. Meryl Streep can certainly dance around, as can Julie Walters even though they are both in their late 50’s.

Now for the acting. To be honest I think the acting fitted well to the story. I felt most of the actors played a more laid back approach, as indeed this is not a serious film and shouldn’t be taken as to be. Julie Walters was brilliant to watch and lights up every scene she’s in, including her hilarious rendition of “Take a Chance on Me.” Colin Firth doesn’t really do an awful lot but does sing, which wasn’t that bad. Stellen Skarsgard, as most of the cast aren’t that bad either.

The script is a plain and simple story but very funny  and very well done indeed. For sure a lot of it was directed at die hard Abba fans but I certainly enjoyed it a lot. What’s great is that the film is very funny and can divert your attention away from any pretentious bits that might annoy you, as not everything is going to break into song.

I can’t recommend this enough. If there’s one film that you should see it’s Mama Mia! Can’t tell you how much fun I had watching this.

Movie Review: Lady in the Water

With things like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakableon his resume you have to hope that writer/director M. Night Shyamalan, when given basically a blank slate to create a movie, could come up with something inspiring and enthralling. Unfortunately the descriptions that apply to the mess that is Lady in the Water are more along the lines of “pretentious,” “ridiculous,” and even just “downright terrible.”

When apartment building superintendent Cleveland Heep rescues who he thinks is a tenant from the pool he soon finds out she’s a creature from an old bedtime story that is trying to make her way back to her home known as The Blue World (rolling your eyes yet?). Mr. Heep and the rest of the apartment tenants must band together to help her achieve her safe return back by fighting off another creature who is determined to keep her in our world.

Shyamalan’s problem that he is a better director than he is a writer is more evident here than in all of his work (including the recent The Happening). Although there is a certain admirability about the fact that he’s trying to do something unique, the problem is the result is still that damn bad, originality or no originality. It’s not even so bad that it becomes good in that sort of guilty pleasure kind of way; it’s just outright bad. And it’s a shame as there are aspects, such as the background story of the main character and just the overall mythology, that shine of potential had they been applied in a different way or perhaps in a different film altogether. I have no doubt the movie world would be far better off if Shyamalan had just immediately walked way from this one the minute he put the first word on paper.

Lady in the Water could readily be described as the opposing side of The Happening’s coin. They share the inconsistencies, the countless examples of misdirection, and lack of trademark Shyamalan elements, particularly the twist we have come to expect from him. But in the case of The Happening there is far more going on to get enjoyment out of, there are at least some intended moments of horror or mystery that somewhat work. But here it just misfires on almost every single note throughout the entire film; it comes off as laughable when it should be awe-inspiring (such as when we get told different descriptions of various different mystical creatures), it causes you to roll your eyes when you should be enthralled or amazed, and it makes you shake your ahead in disbelief of how the heck this movie was allowed to be filmed much less for people to pay to see it in on the big-screen (or on DVD for that matter).

I just cannot fathom how Shyamalan could have been writing this script and not see that it’s embarrassing and laughable. I would struggle to count the moments on four hands the amount of times I thought, “Did they actually just say those words?” Lines such as, “He’s hearing the voice of God through a crossword puzzle!” and “My mom told me more of the story before she threw a cushion at me,” that inspire unintentional snickering from the viewer. One starts to think whether or not the humour was intentional, however the rest of the film is so intent on playing out its ideas with such conviction that I think the laughs come very much unintentionally.

Aside from the pretentiousness of Shyamalan actually making this film and thinking anything he does will be pure gold (because, of course, he’s the guy who made The Sixth Sense, right?) there is one plot point that is all sorts of condescending and pretentious. He appears himself in the film in a small role (as he usually does) but, according to him, an important one. He deems it fit to put himself in his own movie as a writer who this “lady in the water” tells that in the future he will write a book that will effectively change mankind. He actually thinks making himself a sort of writer of “the new Bible”, as the film might as well call it, inspires admiration. Well it doesn’t; it comes off as indulgent and self-loving, an added element that doesn’t help when the rest of the movie is as bad as it is.

There is very little reason to even bother spending any amount of time on this film. Paul Giamatti is at least watchable (and when is he not?) and there is a book and film critic character that does invoke a few comedic moments but that’s about it really. It saddens me when a film has me struggling to think of elements that make it anywhere near worthwhile; I would love it if it was always the other way around.

One of Lady in the Water’s many, many core problems is the fact that it just assumes we’ll buy into this mythology that it’s created from the beginning onwards. The problem is it rushes into it within the first ten minutes, running with the mystical storyline but never allowing us any time to start believing in it ourselves. If it had done exactly that maybe we could forgive some of its ridiculous elements that we come across later on. However seeing that it’s more interested in doing exactly what it wants to do and less interested in engaging its audience the result is one dreadful motion picture.

(Originally posted at Blog Critics)