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Review: The Dark Knight Rises rises beyond expectations
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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

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.

Read More
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  • A day after a raucous final debate before Saturday's key primary in the Palmetto State, Joe Biden rolled out a major endorsement from the most influential black Democrat in South Carolina, while Bernie Sanders said Biden does not have the ability to defeat President Trump in November. 'Jim, you better hope I don't win because you're going to be the busiest man in the world,' Biden told Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), just before Clyburn officially weighed in on behalf of Biden. 'I know Joe Biden. I know his character, his heart, and his record,' Clyburn said, as he urged black voters to back the former Vice President this weekend. 'We know Joe. But more importantly, he knows us,' Clyburn added. During a stop in Georgetown, a small port town up the coast from Charleston, Biden urged voters to turn out and vote on Saturday. “Take back the country - now,” Biden said, his voice rising. Before a group of local officials and voters, Biden made clear his dislike for President Trump - 'he's more George Wallace than George Washington' - and gently chided Bernie Sanders with familiar jabs on health care and gun control. 'God Bless Bernie,' Biden said, reminding voters that Sanders has made big promises which cost trillions of dollars. 'I'm not picking on Bernie or those who are for Medicare For All, I just think it's a little bit of honesty about what in fact, things are going to cost - who is going to pay for it,' Biden said. While Biden looked to consolidate his support among African-American voters, Sanders rushed across the state to sign up more people for his election crusade. 'Some of you may have recently heard that the establishment is getting very, very nervous about our movement,' Sanders said at a rally in North Charleston. While Sanders mainly focused on President Trump, the independent Senator from Vermont also added in some new jabs at Biden to Wednesday's stump speech. 'Same old, same old, is not going to do it,' Sanders said, making the argument that Biden is not going to bring enough new voters into the Democratic Party to defeat President Trump in November. 'And I say to my good friend, Joe Biden - Joe, you can't do it,' Sanders added, making the case that he is the only candidate who can win the White House. 'Joe is a friend of mine and a decent guy, but that is not the voting record or the history that is going to excite people, bring them into the political process, and beat Trump,' Sanders added. Polls in South Carolina show Biden and Sanders far ahead of the field, with only Tom Steyer - who has spent large amounts of money on advertising in this state - in striking distance of the two leaders. Steyer and Biden were about four blocks from each other in Georgetown, as Steyer spoke to a small, racially mixed crowd at a black church several blocks from the water. 'I've been here more than anyone else,' Steyer said of his attention to South Carolina, as his visits combined with a lot of television ads have propelled him into the mix here - unlike any other state so far. Steyer rattled off his work on impeachment and blasted President Trump at every opportunity, calling him incompetent. 'He stinks on the economy,' Steyer said. Only a few blocks away, both men had essentially the same message for their audiences in Georgetown. 'South Carolina gets a huge voice on Saturday,' Steyer said. 'Get up and take back the country!' Biden implored.
  • Los Angeles County firefighters responded to a large refinery fire that temporarily closed all lanes of the 405 Freeway Tuesday night in the city of Carson. KTLA-TV reports that massive flames could be seen burning from the Marathon Petroleum Corporation located 13 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County Fire Department said the fire sparked about 10:50 p.m. An explosion went off before the fire began burning in a cooling tower at the refinery, the department said. Personnel from the refinery were keeping the flames in check through “fixed ground monitors” while working to depressurize the system, fire officials said. Authorities secured a perimeter around the refinery and did not anticipate needing to evacuate residents, officials said. Marathon is the largest refinery on the West Coast with a crude oil capacity of 363,000 barrels per calendar day, according to the company’s website. It manufactures gasoline and diesel fuel, along with distillates, petroleum coke, anode-grade coke, chemical-grade propylene, fuel-grade coke, heavy fuel oil and propane, the website says. Authorities could not immediately confirm what sparked the fire. No injuries have been reported so far.

Washington Insider

  • With less than 48 hours until the polls open on Saturday for the South Carolina Primary, several of the top candidates in the Democratic Party race on Thursday decided to leave the Palmetto State behind, and jump ahead to some of the 14 states which vote on Super Tuesday. Bernie Sanders was hitting two Super Tuesday states on Thursday, holding a late morning rally in Winston Salem, North Carolina, before going on to Richmond, Virginia, two states which vote next week. Sanders finishes Thursday with a rally at Wofford College in Spartanburg. Unlike the past few days on the stump in South Carolina, where Sanders has thrown elbows at Michael Bloomberg and Joe Biden, Sanders in North Carolina instead focused his ire on President Donald Trump. 'I believe that Donald Trump is a hoax,' Sanders said, criticizing the President for his views on climate change. Along with Sanders, Elizabeth Warren was also taking a day off from the Palmetto State, as she had a rally in San Antonio. Part of Super Tuesday, Texas has not attracted a great deal of campaign attention until now, even though 228 delegates are at stake in the Lone Star State - more than the 155 delegates awarded from the first four contests combined in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. While both Warren and Sanders were going to return to South Carolina, the calculus was a bit different for Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who has now wrapped up her campaign in South Carolina, and moved on to Super Tuesday states. The Minnesota Democrat started her Thursday with a voting rights roundtable in Greensboro, North Carolina. 'As much as maybe the debates may have seemed like slugfests, I want to you to remember what an exciting time this is in our politics,' Klobuchar said. “Call your friends, tell them what you heard today,” Klobuchar said at a second event in the Tar Heel State. “It is not about the biggest bank account,” Klobuchar said of the campaign.  “That's been shown time and time again.” Klobuchar will campaign Friday and Saturday in North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee - all three states are on the docket for Super Tuesday.  While Klobuchar, Warren, and Sanders spent time outside South Carolina, Tom Steyer, Joe Biden, and Pete Buttigieg were still doing campaign events in the Palmetto State on Thursday. The latest poll from Monmouth University showed a growing lead for Biden.
  • Adding another item to their election year list of grievances about President Donald Trump, the candidates for the Democratic Party nomination have stepped up their criticism of the White House response to the Coronavirus, arguing it is emblematic of what they charge is the President's haphazard method of governing. 'I am deeply concerned not just by the rise of cases of Coronavirus worldwide, but by the inadequate and incompetent response we have seen from Donald Trump and his administration,' said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). 'He has done an absolutely terrible job of responding,' Tom Steyer said of the President at a campaign stop on Wednesday in Georgetown, South Carolina.  'He is incompetent,' added Steyer, as Democrats blasted the President for proposing cuts at the Centers for Disease Control. 'The Trump administration is absolutely bungling the response,' said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), as she accused the President of 'putting our public health and our economy at risk.' In a CNN televised town hall on Wednesday night in Charleston, Mike Bloomberg joined in ridiculing the White House response. 'Number one, he fired the pandemic team two years ago,' Bloomberg said. 'Number two, he's been defunding Centers for Disease Control. So, we don't have the experts in place that we need.' The comments came as Bloomberg has already put up a campaign ad saying that he would be the perfect politician to handle such a crisis. In a separate CNN town hall, Joe Biden said the U.S. needs to challenge the Chinese more on how the government is handling the situation. 'I would not be taking China's word for it,' Biden said. “I just hope the President gets on the same page as the scientists.' Asked about the President putting Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the Coronavirus response, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said there might have been better choices. “I would think, usually, you might put a medical professional in charge,” Klobuchar said to laughter from the audience at a CNN town hall.
  • A day after a raucous final debate before Saturday's key primary in the Palmetto State, Joe Biden rolled out a major endorsement from the most influential black Democrat in South Carolina, while Bernie Sanders said Biden does not have the ability to defeat President Trump in November. 'Jim, you better hope I don't win because you're going to be the busiest man in the world,' Biden told Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), just before Clyburn officially weighed in on behalf of Biden. 'I know Joe Biden. I know his character, his heart, and his record,' Clyburn said, as he urged black voters to back the former Vice President this weekend. 'We know Joe. But more importantly, he knows us,' Clyburn added. During a stop in Georgetown, a small port town up the coast from Charleston, Biden urged voters to turn out and vote on Saturday. “Take back the country - now,” Biden said, his voice rising. Before a group of local officials and voters, Biden made clear his dislike for President Trump - 'he's more George Wallace than George Washington' - and gently chided Bernie Sanders with familiar jabs on health care and gun control. 'God Bless Bernie,' Biden said, reminding voters that Sanders has made big promises which cost trillions of dollars. 'I'm not picking on Bernie or those who are for Medicare For All, I just think it's a little bit of honesty about what in fact, things are going to cost - who is going to pay for it,' Biden said. While Biden looked to consolidate his support among African-American voters, Sanders rushed across the state to sign up more people for his election crusade. 'Some of you may have recently heard that the establishment is getting very, very nervous about our movement,' Sanders said at a rally in North Charleston. While Sanders mainly focused on President Trump, the independent Senator from Vermont also added in some new jabs at Biden to Wednesday's stump speech. 'Same old, same old, is not going to do it,' Sanders said, making the argument that Biden is not going to bring enough new voters into the Democratic Party to defeat President Trump in November. 'And I say to my good friend, Joe Biden - Joe, you can't do it,' Sanders added, making the case that he is the only candidate who can win the White House. 'Joe is a friend of mine and a decent guy, but that is not the voting record or the history that is going to excite people, bring them into the political process, and beat Trump,' Sanders added. Polls in South Carolina show Biden and Sanders far ahead of the field, with only Tom Steyer - who has spent large amounts of money on advertising in this state - in striking distance of the two leaders. Steyer and Biden were about four blocks from each other in Georgetown, as Steyer spoke to a small, racially mixed crowd at a black church several blocks from the water. 'I've been here more than anyone else,' Steyer said of his attention to South Carolina, as his visits combined with a lot of television ads have propelled him into the mix here - unlike any other state so far. Steyer rattled off his work on impeachment and blasted President Trump at every opportunity, calling him incompetent. 'He stinks on the economy,' Steyer said. Only a few blocks away, both men had essentially the same message for their audiences in Georgetown. 'South Carolina gets a huge voice on Saturday,' Steyer said. 'Get up and take back the country!' Biden implored.
  • For the first time in the 2020 Democratic Party race for President, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took the brunt of the attacks on stage, as the front runner was bluntly accused of being so liberal on a variety of issues that a Sanders nomination would cause more moderate Democrats in Congress to lose their seats in Congress. 'They are running away from your platform as fast as they possibly can,' Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg said to Sanders, drawing cheers from the debate audience. The verbal battle got so heated at times - as the CBS moderators struggled to keep control of the debate - that Buttigieg, Sanders, and others simply talked over each other repeatedly, making it hard to hear what was going on. Here's a quick look at how each of the seven candidates fared on stage Tuesday night. + BERNIE SANDERS. Sanders might have been bloodied, but he certainly wasn't beaten down by the other Democrats on stage, though the independent Vermont Senator seemed to be tiring of the attacks late in the debate, as he yelled more and more loudly. 'Hey, Amy,' he roared at one point, trying to push back at Amy Klobuchar. 'Really?' Sanders said as he was jeered at one point by the audience - another time Sanders was booed when he criticized Joe Biden while debating gun control. But whether it was his words about Fidel Castro and Cuba, or his plans for Medicare For All, Sanders was not apologizing for where he's been - or where he wants to go. + JOE BIDEN. Biden did not mince any words when pressed about how he needed to do on Saturday in South Carolina. 'I will win,' the former Vice President said, in a Joe Namath Super Bowl victory guarantee. It may have been Biden's best debate so far, as he jabbed at Sanders repeatedly - 'Bernie in fact hasn't passed much of anything' - and again raised questions about how Sanders has dealt with gun control legislation. When the debates began last summer, Biden would always nicely follow the rules and stop talking when his time was up. But by debate number ten on Tuesday night, he was done with that. 'Why am I stopping? No one else stops,' Biden told the CBS moderators. + ELIZABETH WARREN. Warren had the most unique game plan at the debate, as she spent very little time talking about why she would be good as President, but spent a lot of time trashing former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Every chance Warren got, she turned a topic into a referendum on Bloomberg. Why hasn't he released his taxes. What about non-disclosure agreements with his employees. She accused Bloomberg of racism on housing. In fact, Warren's attacks went so far that some in the crowd jeered her at one point as she launched a new attack on Bloomberg. The closest she got to saying anything bad about Sanders was when she said, 'Bernie and I agree on a lot of things, but I think I would make a better President than Bernie.' + PETE BUTTIGIEG. Maybe the most effective in leading the charge against Sanders in the debate was Buttigieg, as the two often talked over each other in a battle of wits between the 78 year old Senator and the 38 year old Mayor. Buttigieg mocked the idea that Sanders could win in November, portraying his nomination as a toxic brew which could cost Democrats control of the House, and the defeat of dozens of more moderate Democratic lawmakers elected in 2018. 'Stop acting like the presidency is the only office that matters,' Buttigieg chastised Sanders. One thing Buttigieg did not repeat from last week in Las Vegas was his mini battles with Amy Klobuchar. + AMY KLOBUCHAR. While Amy Klobuchar repeatedly tried to explain how she had been working on issues big and small in the Congress, she did not pull any punches about Bernie Sanders, joining attacks from others that Sanders could be a big liability in November up and down the ballot. 'I like Bernie,' Klobuchar said. 'But I do not believe this is the best person to lead the ticket.'  Klobuchar will campaign in South Carolina on Wednesday, but then leave the state to look for votes in some of the states which vote on Super Tuesday, March 3. + TOM STEYER. While Steyer is not a major force around the country, he has been polling strongly in third place here in the Palmetto State - which means that his debate effort could have a bigger impact on Saturday's vote. Steyer has also made some inroads in the black community in South Carolina, maybe grabbing some votes away from Joe Biden. Both men will be campaigning within a few blocks of each other on Wednesday. + MICHAEL BLOOMBERG. In his second debate, Bloomberg did not repeat his first debate performance, which was widely panned, though he struggled to deliver some one liners which fell flat.  During this debate, Bloomberg again found himself under fire from Elizabeth Warren, but tried to use his time on the debate stage to raise questions about Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump instead. Remember - Bloomberg is not even on the ballot in South Carolina, as he is focused on the Super Tuesday states of March 3.
  • While Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took the most flak at Tuesday night's Democratic Party debate in South Carolina, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) ran against the grain of others on stage, repeatedly attacking Michael Bloomberg as she did in a debate last week in Nevada. 'I don't care how much money Mayor Bloomberg has,' Warren said at one point in the debate. 'The core of the Democratic Party will never trust him.' 'Is Warren running to win the nomination or to be Bernie’s wingman?' tweeted political analyst Stu Rothenberg, as Warren spent more time attacking Bloomberg than talking about why she should be President. 'Warren can slay Bloomberg, but what does she get out of it?' said Joe Lockhart, a former White House Press Secretary under President Barack Obama. In one exchange with Bloomberg, Warren pressed the former New York mayor so much that some in the crowd began jeering the Massachusetts Senator. As the debate began, Warren made the case that she was the better progressive choice than Sanders, but did not try to tear down the Independent Senator from Vermont. 'Bernie and I agree on a lot of things, but I think I would make a better president than Bernie,' Warren said. 'Progressives have got one shot. And we need to spend it with a leader who will get something done,' Warren added, as the closest she came to criticizing Sanders directly came as she accused Sanders aides of attacking her. 'And then Bernie's team trashed me for it,' Warren said. But after that - it was almost all about Bloomberg. The polls in South Carolina have not shown much in the way of promise for Warren, as she's been mired in a battle for fourth place with Pete Buttigieg, well behind Joe Biden, Sanders, and Tom Steyer.