By Emma Bernstein | The Playlist July 20, 2012 at 6:30PM
While the tragic events of the awful shooting in Colorado hang over the weekend, let it not keep us from our plans with cinema. As we noted in our editorial earlier today, the movies have always been a safe space, where we can commune with fellow film lovers and be comforted, challenged, moved and entertained. And while we may feel uneasy when the lights go down over the next few days, let's remember it was an isolated incident, by a person whose actions are beyond what we can ever understand. So let's pause a for moment as we put the the victims in our thoughts and prayers........and now, here's what's screening at theaters near you.
This weekend heralds the return of one of our favorite billionaire playboy superheroes. Nope, not Tony Stark, though the resemblance there is uncanny. It’s the Bat Man, Bruce Wayne himself. “The Dark Knight Rises,” the third and final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman reboot, hits theaters and should prove to be a satisfying conclusion to the series. Picking up eight years after the finale of “The Dark Knight,” the trilogy’s conclusion follows a worn down, reclusive Master Wayne (Christian Bale) who would rather limp around his mansion than perform vigilante justice. However, facing financial crisis at his company and a citywide Occupy Gotham movement led by terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy), the Caped Crusader is forced to don his pointy-eared ski mask once again. Old faces and new help ring out this series: Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, and Liam Neeson co-star. Our review calls the blockbuster “literate, thoughtful and invigorating,” calls its cinematography “gorgeous,” and says, “a cinematic, cultural and personal triumph, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is emotionally inspiring, aesthetically significant and critically important for America itself – as a mirror of both sober reflection and resilient hope.” Rotten Tomatoes: 87% Metacritic: 80
Samurai perform ritual suicide in no less than three dimensions in “Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai,” a remake of Masaki Kobayashi's 1962 film from another Japanese director, Takashi Miike. Unable to survive a period of extended unemployment, the rōnin Motome (Eita) begs the local feudal lords for money, promising to commit hara-kiri in return. However, the nobles distrust the desperateness of Motome’s claim, and force him into the act of seppuku without any retribution. This play for cash is, apparently, a common trick during the difficult financial times of feudal Japan, as another, older samurai (Ebizo Ichikawa) comes by the noble house a bit later with a very similar request… and a story about Motome, whom he knew intimately. In 3D! Our review says, “lethargically paced, visually dull and with an emphasis on drama over action, ‘Hara Kiri’ plays like a bad Merchant Ivory film with a lot of sonorous or off-key acting building up to very little.” RT: 85% MC: 79
“The Well-Digger’s Daughter,” an adaptation of the 1940 French romantic dramedy from Marcel Pagnol and the directorial debut from French film star Daniel Auteuil, tells the timeless story of star-crossed lovers, set against the beauty of Provence during the First World War. The titular well maker (Auteuil) hopes to wed his eldest daughter, Patricia (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), to his assistant (Kad Merad) – who is, to be fair, in love with the girl – but she has other prospects in sight. But war (and classic literature) isn’t kind to young lovers, and the rich pilot she holds a candle for (Nicolas Duvauchelle) is called off to battle, leaving her pregnant with his child. Can you say “scandalous”?? The perfect classical detailing and über-Frenchiness of the film should appeal to those who love their romance extra gushy with a side of period setting, but may prove a little overdone for the tastes of the masses. RT: 89% MC: 57
Following close on the heels of last week’s “Farewell, My Queen” is a documentary that captures a real world case of wealthy naïveté that Marie Antoinette herself could be proud of. Lauren Greenfield’s “The Queen of Versailles” centers on Jackie and David Siegel, a couple of inordinate wealth looking to build the largest house in the United States, a monstrosity located on a sprawling tract in Orlando. Yet their plans are derailed when the recent financial crisis sends David’s billion-dollar business to the brink of bankruptcy and forces the family to reevaluate its finances and lifestyle alike. As the national economy continues to plunge, things get increasingly worse for King and Queen Siegel as well, presenting a lesser-seen viewpoint of this most recent recession. Our review admits the film “will quite likely prove to be polarizing. Audiences looking for a feature-length version of Bravo’s ‘Real Housewives’ franchise will be pleased by the displays of exceptional wealth and candid interviews with family members; the mostly disparaging tone is also a derivation of the series. However, viewers may find the concept tired, and the subjects themselves frustrating in their obliviousness.“ RT: 91% MC: 76
“30 Beats,” from writer-director Alexis Lloyd, finds 10 New Yorkers getting jiggy with it over (and over and over) the course of a three-day summer heat wave. Inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s classic play “La Ronde,” the series of vignettes follows the ensemble cast as they create a trysting train, looping across, around, under, and through the city. Justin Kirk, Thomas Sadowski, Paz de la Huerta, Jennifer Tilly, Lee Pace, Jason Day and Condola Rashad star as some of the sexed up Manhattanites. The source material is certainly rich, but “30 Beats” fails to live up to the many, many other works based on Schnitzler’s original story. Though there’s clearly a presence of talent here, with many familiar faces from theater and television, the performances generally fall flat, and the dialogue and situations alike suffer from banality and contrivance. RT: 0% (no consensus yet) MC: 20