TF Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Whilst I have been excited about this release for a long time now I never quite realised how hotly anticipated this third and final part in the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy was. Sadly the opening weekend release in the United States was one of terrible tragedy with regards to the Colorado cinema shooting where 12 people were killed and 58 were injured.

  

Here in Japan we only had to wait another week for it to come out and though I couldn’t see it on the opening day I was there the following day to see if it could possibly live up to its hype. Having sat through all the Batman films in the last month (not just the last two!) I was never really expecting it to be better than ‘The Dark Knight‘ (2008) or my personal favourite ‘Batman Begins‘ (2005). I managed to avoid all trailers, previews, reviews and news stories relating to it as I wanted the end of the trilogy to be a complete surprise.

The Dark Knight Rises‘ is set eight years after the events of its predecessor with Batman no more, Wayne Enterprises crumbling and Bruce Wayne having not moved on to anything else in life. Whilst he is moping around Commissioner Gordon is also feeling guilty about ‘hero’ Harvey Dent’s crimes being kept under wraps and wants to set the record straight but decided his speech is not quite ready to be relayed to the Gotham public. Naturally it falls into the hands of the main villain Bane who I can’t say I took to in any way and it really is difficult to hear his dialogue through the mask. Obviously Bain is a far more physical antagonist compared to The Joker but is rather single dimensional and lacking the charisma him and Ra’s al Ghul (who does appear in this film too) had in the last two films.

  

You really do need to have seen the previous two films I think but then again why would you be watching this one if you hadn’t! There are lots of little flashbacks and dream sequences with a slight nod to ‘Inception‘ I guess and ultimately one particular dream has a massive bearing on what we see at the end…..or does it?! If I can be so vague without giving away any spoilers that is open to ones own interpretation.

It takes a while to see Bruce Wayne actually back in the Bat suit having been persuaded to come out of retirement by Gordon and Officer Blake. That does open up the chance for Christian Bale to put in more of an acting performance than is needed when he’s just wearing the suit. Michael Caine puts in a fine supporting role as you’d expect from an actor of his fine reputation and the emotional content of the film is driven by the stories involving his character Alfred. All the other characters – Tate, Blake, Selina and so on – are efficient enough but nothing exceptional as, for me, they are there just to help move the story on and so there is not so much in the way of background or expansion of their characters.

If I’m to be perhaps overcritical there are a few things which suspend belief such as 3000 cops being buried underground for three months and then getting out clean, healthy and basically ready to fight a mass of fully armed baddies by just charging them down.

At a very lengthy 165 minutes I felt it did lag a bit in the middle third due in part to my tiredness and the fact that about three stories were going on at once and I wasn’t quite sure what exactly was happening but unlike some viewers I’ve never been too worried about such a thing. The final part of the film is great albeit a bit over the top but more than satisfactory with all the ends more-or-less tied up but leaving it slightly open for another director to take over the reins sometime in the future. In fact, by that stage I could have actually watched a bit more of this movie.

  

Tokyo Fox Rating 8/10

Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘Austin Powers In Goldmember’ (2002)

This third Austin Powers film is 10 years old this month and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that absolutely none of it was actually filmed in Japan. They didn’t reference this fact quite as blatantly as they did in the second film where Austin Powers (Mike Myers) comments on how England looks remarkably like Californian countryside!

After a celebrity-packed opening-credits ‘film within a film’ spoof followed by a load of other funny background story scenes Austin Powers and Foxxy Cleopatra (Beyonce Knowles) come to Tokyo. We’re 40 minutes into the movie when they are in the Japan capital to find Dr Evil’s (also played by Mike Myers) new lair which is a submarine in Tokyo Bay in the shape of him including the classic little finger to the mouth. It’s long, hard and full of sea-men!

 

The laughs are never too far away with Michael Caine turning in a fine comedic performance as Austin’s estranged father Nigel which went somewhat against type at the time.

The Asahi sumo arena doesn’t exist which is where Austin and Foxxy head (albeit with obvious rear projection of Shinjuku in the background) to find Fat Bastard (again played by Mike Myers) who tells them of Roboto Industries whose boss is named purely to give Powers the chance to say “Domo arigatou Mr Roboto” as was sung in Styx’s 1983.

The meeting with Mr Roboto is hilarious with some very juvenile humour based solely on Austin misreading the subtitles making it seem like his comments are dirty. How the hell this kind of humour transfers to Japanese people watching in Japanese I don’t know!! Answer: it no doubt doesn’t but no change there I guess!

I’ve never seen him in ‘Heroes‘ but the actor who played Hiro in that TV series has a short, funny role in this as the salaryman who speaks down the camera lens reminding the watching audience that the creature may look like Godzilla but due to international copyright laws it isn’t. Very silly humour but really funny.

 

In many ways its probably the lamest of the three Austin Powers movies as it does repeat many of the gags from the other two films but its actually my favourite. ‘Goldmember’ is full of laughs and has a strong list of characters in it although I’ve never really taken too much to Fat Bastard. Canadian born Myers, whose parents were both English, really has got some of the British cultural references down to a fine tee and this is one film I really never tire of watching.

Tokyo Fox Rating 9/10 (yes, really!)

London Filming Locations: Snatch (2000)

After the success of ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels‘ director Guy Ritchie cashed in and made a wholly enjoyable but very similar film before everyone started to get a bit fed up of his London gangster movies.

I’ve only got a few locations to show from this year 2000 movie and the first two are just metres away from each other. First up is ‘Premier House’ (below left) at 12-13 Hatton Gardens which played the part of ‘Denovitz Diamonds’; the diamond shop of Doug ‘The Head’ played superbly by the late Mike Read. Down the alley next to that store is ‘Ye Old Mitre Tavern’ (below right) where we first see Doug getting a phone call whilst Guy Ritchie can be seen reading a newspaper in the background.

 

The Jolly Gardeners (below left) at 49 Black Prince Road doubles up as The Drowning Trout where Bullet Tooth Tony (Vinnie Jones) is drinking a pint of Guiness after his car crash. Suddenly Sol and his bunch of masked amateurs catch up with him looking to relieve him of the diamond stone. Bullet Tooth Tony is far from intimidated though as he notices that it says replica down the side of Sol’s gun. Typical Ritchie dialogue is used during this exchange of words. Vauxhall on the Victoria Line is the closest underground station and the place has had a bit of a facelift since it was seen in the film (below right) 12 years ago.

  

London Filming Locations: The Italian Job (1969)

Think of Michael Caine’s classic portrayal of Charlie Croker in the original ‘Italian Job’ film and you no doubt think of the city of Turin where the ‘job’ is done using three Mini Coopers, a Jaguar and a bus amid the chaos of the Italian streets. However, much of the film was actually made in England and believe it or not it was actually Coventry in the West Midlands that was used for the sewer scene with the Mini’s driving through them. This 1969 film sees Croker released (below left) from Wormwood Scrubs Prison (below right) on Ducane Road which is a lot further away from BBC Television Centre than I thought when I looked at the map and concluded that it was just round the corner!

 

The Royal Lancaster Hotel (below) is where Croker has his party to celebrate his release from Prison. It is on Lancaster Terrace and is perhaps ironically located across the road from the Italian Gardens in Hyde Park.

 

Croker’s actual home is at 18 Denbigh Close (below left) off Portobello Road in Notting Hill.

 

The Canada Gates part of Crystal Palace Park (above right) is where the films most famous line was delivered. ”You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” is uttered by Caine as they watch the car get blown to smithereens.

Peninsula Heights is the block off flats (below left) next to the River Thames close to Vauxhall Bridge where the plan to do the bank job in Turin is put into place.

 

Harley Street’s sign (above right) can be seen when Noel Coward goes for a check-up somewhere in that area of Westminster.

London Filming Locations: Batman Begins & The Dark Knight

With the much anticipated release of ‘The Dark Knight Rises‘ approaching I think its a good time to show you some of the London filming locations for the two Christopher Nolan produced films which preceded it. Both films scored very favourably in terms of the critical reception with the majority of film fans preferring ‘The Dark Knight‘ but I’m actually a slightly bigger fan of ‘Batman Begins‘ as this was the re-boot which really changed things with a strong all-star cast and a dramatic intense soundtrack. ‘The Dark Knight‘ continued the fine work and hopefully the new film won’t disappoint either.

The Arkham Asylum in ‘Batman Begins‘ is the National Institute for Medical Research, The Ridgeway on Burtonhole Lane and the interior stairwell invaded by a SWAT team and a load of bats on 91 minutes is St Pancras Chambers. It is perhaps more famous as being the same stairs where the video for the Spice Girls debut single ‘Wannabe‘ was filmed!

Gotham City Police Station is the first floor offices of the Farmiloe Building (below) at 28-36 St John Street in Clerkenwell. This interior location was used in ‘Batman Begins‘ and ‘The Dark Knight‘ and has been used once again for ‘The Dark Knight Rises‘. Gary Oldman’s character Sergeant (later Lieutenant) Gordon works here in the Christopher Nolan trilogy and the director even used the place in ‘Inception‘ as the pharmacy.

 

The DMS Watson Library (below left) in Malet Place is the Gotham Print Room and the Medawar Building (below right) within the same complex is the exterior of the Gotham Police Department HQ.

 

The city of Gotham State Courts where Bruce Wayne goes to kill the man who murdered his parents is Senate House (below left) at the University of London on Malet Street. However, Wayne never gets the chance to go through with his revengeful act as on 25 minutes one of Falcone’s men shoots him first. The same location is used in the sequel as The Joker threatens the city of Gotham.

 

The exterior of the restaurant where Bruce Wayne (with two babes on his arm) bumps into Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) on 70 minutes in ‘Batman Begins‘ is the architectural wonder that is the eyelid entrance of  CityPoint (above right) on Ropemaker Street near Moorgate. However, the restaurant interior was filmed at Plateau in Canada Place, Canada Square.

 

Marco Pierre White’s Criterion restaurant (above left) at 224 Piccadilly near Piccadilly Circus is supposedly owned by Bruce Wayne and is where he finds ex lover Rachel (this time played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) having dinner with Harvey Dent.

The two photos below are from London Film Museum on Southbank with the one on the right being the batsuit worn by Christian Bale in ‘Batman Begins‘.

  

Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘The Shinjuku Incident’ (2009)

He may be one of the worlds most famous international action stars but I am ashamed to say that the only film of his that I’d ever seen before this was the 2009 re-make of ‘The Karate Kid. I actually picked up ‘The Shinjuku Incident‘ on dvd last Christmas for a few quid in England and with a renewed interest in Chan following my trip to his homeland in May I decided to watch it again recently.

It is only because of Chan’s iconic world status that this is included in this series of film reviews which tends to principally focus on western-made films ‘set’ in the land of the rising sun. That oriental image of Japan is far removed in this tale of Chinese refugees fighting a war against the Yakuza in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo.

Provocative, compelling and underscored with hard hitting action, this pulse-pounding thriller explodes with tension, and delivers a career-defining performance from Jackie Chan. Not my words but those on the back of the dvd and for once I have to say that I  agree with most of the marketing blurb as it kept me entertained for its duration.

 

The story begins with dozens of Chinese immigrants entering Japan via Wakasa Bay (directly north of Osaka) and making their way to Tokyo where they do the less glamourous jobs that the Japanese don’t want to do. Steelhead (Chan) is an illegal worker hoping to make it in Japan the honest way but his life gradually descends into petty crime and from that he finds himself deeper and deeper in trouble as his crimes to help his people have a future get heavier and heavier. His one ally is Kitano; the Police sergeant he saved from drowning who is prepared to ‘re-pay his debt’ but he can only do so for so long.

Daniel Wu plays the chestnut selling boy Jie who is out of place amid the underground violence which they find themselves more and more drawn into. His portrayal in the first hour of the film is fine but in the second half his character has a real quick change of character which is questionable and not really fitting with the guy we saw in the earlier part.

This 114 minute Jackie Chan production can be a hard watch at times due to the extreme nature of some of the violence. Chan shows, as he did in ‘The Karate Kid‘, that he can act in a dramatic role when he needs to and I was happy to see that this was made for the Asian market and thereby didn’t need watering down for a Western audience.

Tokyo Fox Rating 7/10