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Review: The Dark Knight Rises rises beyond expectations

Review: The Dark Knight Rises rises beyond expectations

Review: The Dark Knight Rises rises beyond expectations

Review: The Dark Knight Rises rises beyond expectations

Search your memory and try to think of a movie trilogy where the third installment was any good.

I can count them on one hand.

Now try to think of any third installments to a movie trilogy that were GREAT.

I can't remember ANY.

But now there is one.

I collected comics as a kid, and Batman was far and away my favorite character, so while I'm always glad to see a Batman film, I'm also difficult to please.

So I'm glad to say I think The Dark Knight Rises, the finale to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, is a truly great film.

The rumor after Nolan's second installment in the franchise, the critically acclaimed box-office blockbuster The Dark Knight, was that he was reluctant to do a third film.

And in fact, The Dark Knight didn't leave any glaring loose ends to be tied up, so although fans would have been mightily disappointed, Nolan could have let sleeping bats lie.

That's why it's all the more impressive that he manages to logically build upon not just the events in
The Dark Knight but also to a large extent, unexpectedly perhaps, on events from the first part of the trilogy, 2005's Batman Begins.

I don't want to give away too many spoilers to say exactly how he does this, but if it's been awhile since you've seen the first two films (or if you've NEVER seen them), you will definitely want to watch those before TDKR to refresh your memory, because the plot in The Dark Knight Rises is (in typical Nolan fashion) a very intricate construction with scenes and plotlines that at first seem unnecessary, until it all finally meshes at the end, and it hits you with sudden clarity why Nolan did what he did.

The Dark Knight Rises didn't make my brain hurt as much as the dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream plot of Nolan's 2010 film Inception, but it has plenty of twists and turns and will likely surprise you at least once or twice along the way.

TDKR is set 8 years after the events in The Dark Knight.

The Batman, having taken the blame for the death of Harvey Dent AKA Two Face, hasn't been seen since.

His alter-ego, Bruce Wayne, who pretended to be the swaggering, womanizing, publicity-hound,  is now a despondent, shaggy-haired, unshaven recluse, retreating from public view inside the now-rebuilt Wayne Manor.

Christian Bale is great as Wayne and probably doesn't get enough credit for a job that is probably tougher than it looks, segueing from the pretend "cavalier Wayne" to the serious "save-the-world" Wayne and back again, sometimes in the same scene.

His loyal butler Alfred, once again played by Michael Caine in yet another terrific performance, tries to chide him, as only Alfred can do, to find a life after Batman, but it's clear that Bruce has lost his motivation and purpose in life.

That is, until a new villain emerges.

Bane is well-known to fans and readers of the Batman comic books, as one of the Dark Knight's most fearsome enemies, matching him intellectually and surpassing him physically, but is not nearly as well known to fans outside the comic book world as say, the Joker.

Fans of the comics will be relieved to know that Nolan rightfully portrays Bane much closer to his comic-book roots than the growling, brain-dead version in the 1997 Joel Schumacher-directed debacle Batman and Robin.

In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane is just as cunning and cerebral with his plans as he in the comics and just as brutal and unmerciful in carrying them out.

This would be a good time to point out that parents need to take the PG-13 rating in TDKR seriously.

This is an intense film that, compared to many modern-day action movies, contains very little blood or gore but thematically is actually much more unsettling with very dark portrayals of real-world concerns like terrorism and violence.

There is some moments of much-needed lightness and even romance in the movie provided by a cat burglar named Selina Kyle, who comic-fans will instantly recognize as the alter ego of Catwoman, although Nolan never refers to her as such in the film, because he likely felt it was too campy.

Just like the comics, The Dark Knight Rises version of Selina, played by Anne Hathaway, is a "frenemy" to Batman, sometimes helping him, but in some cases, causing him some major problems.

Hathaway is entirely convincing in the action scenes and, ahem, looks great in the cat suit.

Actor Tom Hardy turns in a great performance as Bane and does a remarkable job of conveying Bane's emotions and sometimes subtle menace, considering that his face is almost completely covered by a facemask.

Granted, the razor-sharp fangs in the mask are much more helpful with the more explosive menace that Bane also exhibits frequently.

Hardy reportedly bulked up with 30 pounds of added muscle with an intense workout regimen and mixed martial-arts training.  He's not nearly as big as say, Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime, but somehow he seems ten times scarier.

The dread is palpable as Nolan masterfully builds the suspense leading up toward the first confrontation between Batman and Bane.

Nolan has apparently taking some of the criticism of his camera-work during fight scenes to heart, because the battle between Bane and Batman has to be one of the most memorably brutal fights ever portrayed in movies.

Don't be surprised if you find yourself wincing involuntarily a couple of times during it.  Nolan somehow manages to make it disturbingly realistic and larger-than-life at the same time.

Speaking of larger-than-life, do yourself a favor and see the film at an IMAX theater.  Nolan shot 72 minutes of TDKR on 70-millimeter IMAX cameras, and the effect really is mind-boggling.

The aerial shots looking straight down at the Gotham cityscape are truly awesome.  You'll have to turn your head to scan the giant screen from one side to the other and back again to really take it all in.   But you might be surprised to see that Nolan also works the IMAX shots into quieter, simple dialogue scenes.

The plot, which essentially revolves around Bane's plan to take over Gotham, sounds cliché, but trust me when I say it's not, and the way that he goes about it will likely strike you as completely plausible and frighteningly possible, which isn't surprising given Nolan's insistence and uncanny ability to make even a movie about a man who dresses up like a bat as realistic as possible.

Saying much more about the plot would ruin the wonderful way that Nolan has crafted it, but the ending is about as emotionally satisfying and fitting as any longtime Bat-fan like myself could want.

And in true Nolan fashion, it leaves open more than one possible interpretation, but is never so vague as to be too maddening.

If not for Heath Ledger's masterful performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises would rise to the top of the heap.

As it is, it probably ranks a very close second the second installment, but because it ties up some of the loose ends that you might not have realized were loose from Batman Begins, it also serves to enhance the first film in many ways.

It will likely be impossible for you not to think of the victims from the senseless act of violence and cruelty in Colorado as you're watching this film.  It will likely make the already jarring depiction of violence in the film more difficult to watch.   As you sit in your seat, you realize how entirely helpless you would feel if somebody suddenly started shooting.    And you will almost undoubtedly feel an even more profound sense of sympathy for the people in that Colorado theater, because as you sit in your seat, you realize more clearly than ever that they were just like you, just everyday folks hoping to have a fun night at the movies to see one of their childhood heroes.

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  • With no signs of any deal to restore funding for the federal government, lawmakers on Capitol Hill will be back for a rare Sunday session, with no real signs of an agreement to end the first government shutdown since 2013, as both parties continued to point the finger of blame at each other. The main stumbling block continues to be immigration, and what to do about hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrant Dreamers in the United States, who were protected under the Obama Administration’s DACA program, which was ended by the Trump Administration in October. Republicans made clear – there is no deadline on DACA until March – as they said those negotiations should simply continue while the government is funded and operating. “I hope Senator Schumer comes to his senses and ends this shutdown madness sooner rather than later,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, taking aim at the Senate Democratic Leader. But for Democrats, they worry that the GOP will never deal on immigration and DACA, as their leaders have decided now is the time to press for action. During Saturday’s House and Senate sessions – where no obvious progress was made – Democrats continued to argue that Republicans were the problem, since the GOP is in charge of the House, Senate and White House. “Americans know Republicans own the Trump Shutdown,” said Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY). “Anyone claiming otherwise should double check who has control in Congress.” Instead of signs of compromise, Saturday was mainly filled with tough rhetoric from both parties. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said President Trump’s grade for his first year in office was a “big fat failure F.” With no evidence of any deal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set a procedural vote for just after 1 am on Monday morning, trying to force action on a plan to extend government funding until February 8, as he again blamed Democrats for the impasse. If Democrats hold together as they did late on Friday night, then that motion would not get the needed 60 votes to end debate, meaning the shutdown would hit government offices on Monday morning. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says “Congress has a lot of work to do” but it is being 'delayed by the Democrat’s filibuster' https://t.co/IU5LKpcVoB — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 20, 2018 Various federal agencies were still making their plans for Monday; one federal worker that I saw on Saturday evening said his office had been told to come in for four hours on Monday, and then they would likely be sent home if there was no funding plan approved by the Congress.
  • Hours after funding lapsed for the federal government at midnight, lawmakers in both parties returned for an unusual Saturday session of the House and Senate, as both parties quickly launched themselves into finger pointing over who is to blame for the first government shutdown since 2013, with few signs that a deal was near on the major spending and immigration issues that brought about the standoff. “Get it together,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi bluntly said to Republicans in a morning speech on the House floor, as she led a chorus from her party in blaming the President for the budgetary impasse. “The Trump travesty continues, as it has for the last twelve months,” said Pelosi’s top lieutenant, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD). But Republicans were having none of that. “We’re about nine hours into the Schumer shutdown,” said Rep. Greg LaMalfa (R-CA) as the House convened, “which is basically Senate Democrats holding the United States, 320 million people, hostage.” Greetings from the Capitol this Saturday morning, where we have evidence of the shutdown: Capitol tours are suspended. pic.twitter.com/rfPAlLLlIQ — Cristina Marcos (@cimarcos) January 20, 2018 “There is no excuse for this,” said Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA). “Democrats shut down the govt to protect illegals this week,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA). Behind the scenes, lawmakers in both parties were still hoping to cut a deal that would have the government fully open by Monday – but there was little evidence of a possible breakthrough on the broader budget and immigration issues which led to this stalemate. Negotiations have centered on reaching a two year agreement on spending levels for the budget – as President Trump wants a sizable increase in the military’s budget – and on DACA, where Democrats were still hoping to get an agreement that would protect some 700,000 illegal immigrant “Dreamers” from being deported. As the clock ticked toward midnight on Friday night, there were a flurry of talks on the Senate floor between Senators of both parties – not really about the specifics of the budget or DACA – but mainly about the length of any temporary funding plan for the government, and plans to vote on that hot button immigration topic. “Since there were discussions here in earnest, in a bipartisan way, we ought to give those discussions a chance to bear fruit,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). “We should stay and work,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “Senator McConnell chose to shut the government down,” referring to the GOP leader in the Senate. But the underlying issues remain fraught with political problems, especially on immigration, where many Republicans see no direct link between funding the government and a deal on DACA and illegal immigrant “Dreamers.” “This Schumer Shutdown is absolutely ridiculous,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA). “It is totally irresponsible for the Democrats to use government funding as a bargaining chip.” At the White House, there was no sign that the President was going to cave on Democratic demands on immigration, as officials accused Democrats of doing all they could to slow political momentum from a big GOP tax cut plan that was signed into law in December. One year into the Trump presidency, Democrats can't shut down the booming Trump economy so they shut down the government instead. This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators. Do your job Democrats: fund our military and reopen our government #SchumerShutdown — Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) January 20, 2018 Democrats said they thought they were close to a deal with the President on Friday over DACA and other immigration issues, but that Mr. Trump backed off, again emphasizing the uncertainty that surrounds talks with the White House on major legislative issues. Even if the Senate were to approve a bill which combined provisions on DACA and the Dreamers, along with other items on border security, most Republicans say that would have little chance in the House, where GOP lawmakers favor a much tougher approach. One obvious difference between this shutdown and the one in 2013, is seen right here in Washington, D.C., where outdoor memorials and the Smithsonian museums were still open. Those were shut down by the Obama Administration last time, in what Republicans said was an effort to punish the GOP for a shutdown battle. FYI for anyone visiting DC this weekend: The @smithsonian museums WILL be open Saturday and Sunday. I was told they are not sure if they'll have to close Monday, though. They were waiting for guidance. — Daniella Diaz (@DaniellaMicaela) January 20, 2018
  • An employee is shot in the leg during an armed robbery Friday night at the Royal China Buffet near Admiral and Sheridan. Tulsa police tell us Anthony Cox entered the restaurant and there were customers inside.  He reportedly became impatient while waiting for his loot. “Witnesses believe the suspect shot the victim because he wasn’t moving fast enough with the money,” Police said.  Officers tracked Cox down about a block away from the scene. They recovered a gun and loot from the robbery. Investigators believe Cox could be linked to other robberies.  He has been booked into the Tulsa County Jail.   
  • If you have outdoor plans for today, take the kite with you and leave the heavy coat at home. National Weather Service Meteorologist Mark Plate says the Tulsa area will see a major warm-up, but wind will be a factor. “Cloudy in the morning and then becoming mostly cloudy,” Plate said.  “The high temperature will be in the lower 60’s.  The south winds will be quite breezy, gusting up to 25 mph at times.”  The low Saturday night will only drop to near 51 degrees. On Sunday, NWS is reporting a high near 70 degrees.  However, there is a chance of showers during the daytime.  
  • In a high stakes game of legislative chicken, the U.S. Senate on Friday night blocked a House-passed bill to fund operations of the federal government for the next four weeks, as most Democrats joined with a handful of Republicans to filibuster the spending measure, demanding faster action on immigration matters, driving the Congress toward the first federal government shutdown since 2013. The vote was 50 to 49 – 60 votes were needed. Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump had met with Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer at the White House – but while they seemed to make some progress, there was no final deal. And Mr. Trump made clear who was to blame. Not looking good for our great Military or Safety & Security on the very dangerous Southern Border. Dems want a Shutdown in order to help diminish the great success of the Tax Cuts, and what they are doing for our booming economy. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 20, 2018 A handful of members from both parties broke with their leaders on the Senate vote, which would have shut off debate on the four week spending measure approved on Thursday by the House. Mainly because of the impasse over DACA and immigration, several Republicans refused to join with the President, as they voted against the plan. “I believe no one wants the government to shut down,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). “I also believe that we are inside the ten yard line on finding solutions on all issues.” Other Republican “no” votes included Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Democrats voting to end debate included five from states which were won by President Trump: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Clare McCaskill (D-MO), and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN). For many Democrats, the biggest thing missing from a temporary budget plan was something concrete on the DACA program, to deal with close to 700,000 illegal immigrant “Dreamers” now in the United States. In the various Congressional office buildings, immigration activists and many Dreamers joined in demonstrations for their cause. Dreamers protesting right below reporters covering potential shutdown. Chanting #DreamActNow pic.twitter.com/Ad3CxCzo0P — Rebecca Bainer (@rebbainer) January 19, 2018 But Republicans argued that backers of DACA relief were not interested in doing enough to stop people from coming illegally in the future. “We want to be able to resolve this, but it has to be resolved with border security attached to it,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK). “There’s a deal here that could be struck very quickly,” argued Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC). But signs of a late agreement did not seem to be there for Senators as the clock ticked toward midnight, a reminder that many hours had been spent in recent months on the issue, so far – to no avail. It wasn’t immediately clear how Congressional leaders would try to broker a deal. President Trump stayed at the White House Friday night instead of flying as scheduled to his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida. It’s not clear if he will go there on Saturday for a party to mark his first year in office.