Tag Archives: Michael Caine

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises faced a tricky maneuver: providing a follow up to the earth shattering, delirious success that was 2008’s The Dark Knight. The film was never going to be as good as or better than that lightning in a bottle stroke of genius. However, the film we did get is one epic, operatic sonic boom of a Batman film, and if there’s one area where it does in fact outdo The Dark Knight, it’s in scope. The action set pieces here have an earth shattering, monumental quality to them, mainly thanks to Tom Hardy’s Bane, a full on monster who brings biblical destruction to Gotham City with some calculated, maximum impact attacks that almost blow the speakers of any system they’re shown on. Despite the apocalyptic blitzkrieg, Nolan loses none of that precious philosophy that has made this franchise glow so far, the sharp-as-a-tack dialogue and moral complexities of existing in a world of vigilantes and terrorists. It’s been eight years in Gotham since Batman took down the Joker and, somewhat controversially, the fallen angel that was Harvey Dent. Bruce Wayne has become a crippled recluse while the city more or less flourishes quietly, but there’s nothing that’ll roust a burg out of tranquil slumber like the arrival of a seven foot tall, highly trained psychopath bent on chaos. In a vertigo inducing opener set atop the clouds, Bane triumphantly crashes a CIA aircraft and makes off with its cargo, a mere taste of his brutality to come. Bruce is forced out of hiding to do battle with him, and before you know it they’re all thundering around Gotham’s tunnels and edifices, pursued by hordes of snarky GCPD, who no doubt have missed this kind of action for a near decade. The new commissioner (Matthew Modine) is a hotheaded nimrod, while Gordon (Gary Oldman, the gravitas is real with this guy) still hurts from the tragedy years before. Anne Hathaway throws a wicked curveball of a performance as Selina ‘Catwoman’ Kyle, and although no one will ever, *ever* top Michelle Pfeiffer’s brilliantly kinky turn years before, she’s a deadly force to be reckoned with both for Bruce and the criminal factions vying for power. Hathaway seems like a sanitized choice for the cat, but she’s deft, sexy, formidable, competent and looks damn good in that outfit careening around on Bruce’s batbike. Marion Cotillard is great as the mysterious Miranda Tate who may be more dangerous than she seems, a shtick which Cotillard unnervingly perfected first in Inception. Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are top notch as Alfred and Lucius once again, Ben Mendelsohn plays up a sleazy business rival for Bruce, Juno Temple is cute as Selina’s off again, on again lover, Joseph Gordon Levitt’s intrepid detective gets a whole lot of plot momentum and crazy good dialogue, and the jaw dropping lineup of supporting work includes Brett Cullen, Burn Gorman, Desmond Harrington, Chris Ellis, Robert Wisdom, Tomas Arana, Aiden Gillen, Brent Briscoe, William Devane, Nestor Carbonell, Reggie Lee, Wade Williams, Christopher Judge, a brief reprisal from Liam Neeson and Cillian Murphy as that pesky Scarecrow, the only villain who appears in all three films. The story goes to places the other two films never ascended to, and if the Joker thought his antics aspired to anarchy, he’d do flips when Bane literally starts blowing up the city on a massive scale, an extended sequence that’s delirious in it’s armageddon worthy panic. On a more personal scale, Batman deals with being broken, the cost he must pay to ultimately save his city, and the unknowable matter of when to cash out as a superhero, or forever give up your soul to a fight that has neither end nor reason. My only issue with the story is how a certain third act revelation pretty much neuters Bane’s character arc and renders his whole fearsome nature somewhat too human and redundant when all is said and done, it’s a narrative decision Nolan should examine closely for his own sake, and avoid such an impotent cop-out when writing his next arch villain. The cinematography is aces, the cgi blending seamless, Hans Zimmer’s score gives us the classic thunderstorm passages we’ve come to love while adding a rhythmic chanting for further depth and flavour. There’s not much that can be said that’s negative about the film, it’s one hell of an achievement and doesn’t let up until the Big Bang of an ending provides release for the franchise and every character in it, an expository epilogue in which loose ends are tied, and some semblance of peace is found. A near perfect third act to the trilogy, and a superhero flick for the ages.

-Nate Hill

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Mike Hodges’ GET CARTER

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In the back rooms of London, gangsters smoke cigarettes, drink scotch, and view pornographic images on a slideshow. While the stoic John Carter watches his secret fiance getting felt up by his boss, he gets a phone call telling him that his brother has been killed. The next day he gets on a train traveling to his hometown to kill anyone and everything that stands in his way to find out what happened. GET CARTER is a no bullshit hard genre gangster film that is propelled by its perverse and transgressive narrative and its self-titled leading man, Michael Caine.

The film flawlessly executes the pulpy elements that make genre pictures such a joy to watch. The mysteriously perverse big bad, the femme fatal, a bloody climax, and a hero’s fall from grace during the finale. Michael Caine is cinematic perfection as John Carter. He brutishly navigates the back alleys, barrooms, and streets of Newcastle without speaking very much at all, doing all of his talking brandishing a shotgun or better yet, his commanding gaze.

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A lot can be said for Caine as an actor. He’s a lot of fun to watch, whether he’s playing an English intellectual version of Woody Allen, or a caricature of himself, Alfred Pennyworth; in GET CARTER his screen presence is as terrifying as it is commanding. You can’t take your eyes off of him. He’s brutishly mysterious, yet he’s as capable as he is cunning – always being one step ahead of impending danger that is one step behind him.

The film captures what makes English gangster films so great: the gray aesthetics of a de-glorified England. It’s rainy and smokey, with side stares from bar patrons and supremely unfriendly looking men in heavy overcoats brandishing shotguns that drive around in tiny sporty looking cars.

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Another remarkable aspect of the picture is how it handles its very dark and pornographic subject matter. It doesn’t try to hide anything or deceive the audience. From the opening scene, the viewer is fully immersed into the underground world of crime and pornography.  The nudity is as unapologetic as the fierce perversion of the men the film revolves around, including Carter himself.

GET CARTER is that film that was the preface to universally adored films of the genre like THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE, THE HIT, THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, MONA LISA, and SEXY BEAST. There are not any limitations to how far the plot will trek into the moral ambiguity of the “hero”, nor will it soften the blow as the narrative slowly pulls itself to a pitch black finish.

On Deadly Ground: A Review by Nate Hill

  
I tend to actively avoid Steven Seagal films like the plague, and realize intermittently that I do in fact enjoy certain ones from back in the day. He’s made a ton of trash, no doubt, but the clouds part every now and again, for select occasions like Under Siege, The Glimmer Man, Above The Law, Fire Down Below and the snowbound On Deadly Ground. The main marvel in this one is an incredibly hammy Michael Caine as the mustache twirling villain, a Big Oil maniac who has his amoral sights set on sacred land belonging to Inuit tribesman. Seagal plays yet another martial arts trained badass who takes it upon himself to bring down Caine, his nefarious capitalist plans and the violent mercenaries he has hired to wipe the land of indigenous natives. It’s as silly as silly can be, right down to him falling in love with a beautiful Inuit girl (Joan Chen, actually Chinese), but enjoyable on its own terms when you look at the solid choreography, stunts and impressive location work. Also, the roster of villains is too good to pass up, starting with Caine’s outright, wanton psychopath. We’re also treated to the Sergeant himself, R. Lee Ermey as a merc with a particularly salty attitude, John C. McGinley over-playing one of his patented schoolyard bullies, and even Billy Bob Thornton shows up, adding to the sleaze factor. Watch for cameos from Mike Starr, Michael Jai White and an unbilled Louise Fletcher as well. Seagal directed this himself, so it’s essentially one big vanity piece where he gets to play Dances With Wolves for a couple hours, but the trick is to see the unintentional comedy in that and enjoy it. Seagal is one of those goofs who I am not a ashamed to say I am laughing at, not with. Caine is the real prize here, and his merry band of assholes. An action flick is only as good as it’s antagonist, and this guy is bad to the bone in hilariously over the top ways. A big dumb flick, nothing more, nothing le- well maybe a little less in places, but fun in other spots nonetheless.

YOUTH – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

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YOUTH achieves and exceeds what most pieces of art attempt to do.  This film is brought to us by the genius mind of Paolo Sorrentino, as well as career high performances from Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano and Jane Fonda.  This film is a testament that is timeless, introspective, existential, and a beautifully painful kaleidoscope of emotions that is life.

Michael Caine is Fred Ballinger, a retied and apathetic conductor who is on holiday at a tranquil and off beat hotel in the Swiss Alps, where he’s been vacationing for the past sixty years with his best friend Mickey a writer/director, perfectly played with gravitas and emotion by the magnificent Harvey Keitel.  Rachel Weisz is brilliant in her duel role as Fred’s assistant and daughter.  Paul Dano yet again holds his own, and is not overshadowed by the acting giants he is put up against, as Jimmy, the resentful and bitter method actor doing research for his next role.

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The pairing up of Caine and Keitel is awe inspiring.  They are two of the very best actors not only from their respective generations, but in cinema itself.  Keitel has always been a personal favorite actor of mine who has been under appreciated and for a majority of his career stuck in the “tough guy” role.  At the age of 76 Keitel is fantastic as the tortured optimist that is a hybrid between Charles Bukowski and John Cassavetes .  As odd of a couple Caine and Keitel are, there are not two actors alive that would be as suited as them for these two roles.

This film is difficult to navigate.  The music, visual style and design soften the coarse and heavy subject matter.  Its structure is purposely off beat, yet Sorrentino masterfully guides us through this journey where conventional plot points do not matter.  We feel what’s happening, and that’s the purpose of this film, channeling raw and perhaps at times, unrecognizable emotion into ourselves.

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Not since THE TREE OF LIFE, has a film taken us on a journey inside the human psyche that is set somewhere between reality and a fever dream.  Paolo Sorrentino masterfully delivers the beautiful showboat that is YOUTH, that rare and elusive film that is as charming, poignant, inspiring, and at times devastating as life itself.