The Dark Knight Rises
In 2008, director Christopher Nolan made what is widely regarded as the greatest cinematic adaptation of a superhero comic with The Dark Knight, a film that transcended its trashy origins to achieve a mythic quality of deeply conflicted heroism and tragedy. Nolan’s second bite of the cherry has taken this epic quality still further, combining traditional fine script writing and superb acting with the most advanced motion technology to create the must-see movie of this summer. Christian Bale is back in the title role, and has a strong supporting cast that includes British actor Tom Hardy as Bane, the key villain, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, along with Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Marion Cotillard. Action, poetry, fantasy, redemption and celebrity, The Dark Knight Rises has it all.
Lots of car chases and a sound track with heavy bass guitar are not quite enough to make Motorway, a film produced by veteran Johnnie To (杜琪峰) a complete success. Directed by Cheang Pou-soi (鄭保瑞), who has emerged from small budget indie movies to a full-fledged mainstream action flick with Motorway, the film has great energy. Cheang’s management of the stunts is flawless, but in telling the story of a rookie cop who takes on a veteran escape driver on the streets, he is unable to make his characters come alive, nor achieve the engagingly noir feel of something like Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. The film starts Shawn Yue (余文樂) as the young cop, and he is simply too wooden to be interesting, but supporting cast is excellent, with a great performance by Anthony Wong (黃秋生) as an old cop who has seen it all before.
A documentary by Mami Sunada that follows the life of her father, a workaholic salesman, from the discovery that he has an inoperable cancer, to his death. Despite this rather heavy subject matter, Ending Note is in many respects an upbeat film that focuses more on what can be achieved in a small amount of time at the end of one’s life, rather than lamenting a life that contained more than its fair share of unfulfilling drudgery. The title refers to the writing of a dairy that Sunada senior uses to record the things he wants to do. Mami Sunada’s camera captures many candid and affecting moments, and portrays a man whose life is made richer through his ability to appreciate the whole trial of his gradual demise. The film is also an excellent study of the rituals surrounding death and dying as practiced in Japan.
The Woodsman and the Rain
Delightful comedy about a rustic woodsman who gets caught up in the making of a low-budget zombie movie taking place in his neck of the woods. Director Shuichi Okita has made good use of limited financial resources, and given the abundant talent at his disposal space to shine. The woodsman of the title is played by veteran Koji Yakusho, who creates his own idiosyncratic comic bassline to the screwball comedy centered on the zombie flick’s director, played by Shun Oguri, whose incompetence and the disdain with which he is treated by the crew also provide a rich vein of fun. For all the ludicrousness, the characters are rooted in real human responses, giving The Woodsman and the Rain an emotional core that is often missing when directors go for laughs at the expense of recognizable human emotions.