Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Nolan’

Rivals in magic duel to the death, and possibly beyond, in ‘The Prestige’

September 18, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 18, 2015

Author’s note: I had this post almost ready to go on Sept. 9 when my computer went kablooey. Well, I’ve got a new machine now and I’m back online, so here, at long last, is the post you’ve been waiting for — my review of a Christopher Nolan film released nine years ago. Enjoy, all! MEM

The Prestige, Christopher Nolan’s 2006 movie based on the 1995 Christopher Priest novel of the same title, begins by plunging the viewer into the heart of a tangled web of misdirection and deception.

Just before magician Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) performs his signature feat, dubbed the New Transported Man, spectators in an immense ritzy London theater sometime near the beginning of the 20th century are invited to the stage to examine what purports to be a teleportation device. But one of the men who’s chosen to do so is not what he seems. As Angier runs through his spiel, Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) brushes past a stagehand and descends below the stage, where he finds a blind man — completely oblivious to Borden’s presence — sitting patiently.

The scenes are narrated by a long monologue that turns out to be delivered by Cutter (Michael Caine), Angier’s ingénieur — a facilitator of illusions. “Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts,” Cutter tells us.

The first part is called the pledge. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course, it probably isn’t.

Read the rest of this entry »


Policeman, prey, protégée: Christopher Nolan puts Al Pacino in uneasy alliances in the psychological thriller ‘Insomnia’

February 21, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 21, 2015

When Insomnia opens, renowned homicide detective Will Dormer doesn’t know that his life is spinning out of control. But over the course of Christopher Nolan’s 2002 psychological thriller, Dormer comes to realize that he is a man who is badly lost, in a moral sense if not a geographical one.

Al Pacino headlines the cast as Dormer, a veteran Los Angeles cop who has been dispatched along with his partner to a small Alaska community where the local police are baffled by the murder of a teenager. The unclothed body of the victim, 17-year-old Kay Connell (Crystal Lowe), was found in a garbage dump; the corpse was bathed and otherwise treated in such a fashion that no physical evidence remains to implicate any suspect.

Read the rest of this entry »

Coincidence: On my tour of the popular culture of 2012, my trip to Las Vegas and Yann Martel

December 23, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 23, 2014

Lately, entirely by coincidence, I’ve been reading and reviewing book and movies from 2012: Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, Nick Harkaway’s Angelmaker, Ben Affleck’s Argo, Dennis Lehane’s Live by Night and (back in September) Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. Now, entirely by coincidence, this week, I’ll have two blog posts connected to Canadian novelist Yann Martel.

Why? Coincidence.

Read the rest of this entry »

Some degrees of separation: Not entirely random notes about Ben Affleck, Dennis Lehane and Christopher Nolan and blogging

December 19, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 19, 2014

One interesting thing about blogging that I learned this fall is that it helps me make connections — often completely unexpected ones.

I don’t just mean the kind of free-association stuff that happened in my car — well, in my head while I was driving — Wednesday night, which I wrote about yesterday. I mean things like actor-director Ben Affleck’s connection with novelist Dennis Lehane.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nobody knows his face, but everybody knows his name (and story): Revisiting Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman Begins’

December 6, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 6, 2014

Everyone knows the basic setup of the world of Batman, one of the great comic-book heroes. Heck, millions of people could recite it in their sleep. It goes like this:

Bruce Wayne, the only son of billionaires, was orphaned by a gunman at an early age and raised by Alfred Pennyworth, the Wayne family’s loyal butler. Determined to fight the endemic crime of his native Gotham, the so-called Dark Knight dons a cape and cowl and equips himself with a cornucopia of fantastic gadgets in order to help Jim Gordon, the city’s trustworthy police commissioner, apprehend bizarre and menacing villains.

In 1989, the quirky director Tim Burton launched a Batman film franchise, featuring an unlikely choice — mild-mannered comedic actor Michael Keaton, a.k.a. Mr. Mom — in the lead role. Burton’s quirky, sometimes over-the-top gothic realization of this noir-ish comic-book universe proved to be immensely popular. Batman garnered $40.5 million in its first weekend, dwarfing the previous best opening of a superhero movie (Superman II, which took in $14.1 million in 1982).

Burton’s quite excellent Batman went on to total earnings of more than $250 million and helped spawn a legion of superhero movies. They included Batman Returns, which saw Burton and Keaton reuniting for a decent 1992 feature, and two extremely cheesy, greatly inferior further sequels: Batman Forever (1995), directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Val Kilmer in the title role; and Batman & Robin (1997), again directed by Schumacher but this time starring George Clooney.

When, in 2005, Christopher Nolan came out with the insipidly named Batman Begins, a cinematic reboot of the Caped Crusader, I wondered why, exactly, the movie was necessary. What novelty could be mined from the genesis of Batman, whose origin story even the highest-browed of potential moviegoers knows by heart?

I never did see Batman Begins in the movie theater. But I did watch it, on a fiasco of a date, at a free outdoor screening in Raleigh’s Moore Square Park in the summer of 2005 or 2006 (if memory serves).

Read the rest of this entry »

‘Interstellar,’ a space-time odyssey: Christopher and Jonathan Nolan project human destiny through the prism of one man’s journey

November 29, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Nov. 29, 2014

Interstellar, the new science fiction drama from director Christopher Nolan, is a domestic drama that takes place across the reaches of space, time and physics.

The ostensible hero of the movie is Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a widower who farms an increasingly desolate homestead in what may be rural Texas. The ostensible heroine is Brand (Anne Hathaway), a scientist whose drive to salvage humanity is sometimes undermined by her usually tightly controlled sentimentality. I don’t think the film ever reveals Cooper’s first name; Brand’s given name is Amelia, but it’s seldom used, a very deliberate omission that marks the character’s emotional coolness, underscoring the distance — real or figurative — between her and the people for whom she cares, and who care for her.

If the movie, which the English director co-wrote with his younger brother, Jonathan Nolan, ever specified the time in which it takes place, I missed it. The story seemed to me to begin a generation or two after our present time. In this dystopian future, climate change has evidently occurred, bringing with it massive dust storms and global crop failures. The ensuing famine and population collapse bring a singular focus on feeding and expanding the human population at the expense of nearly everything else.

Cooper is a relic in this world. Currently a farmer, he once had an abortive career as an astronaut. He’s bitter because the advanced technology that is now all but officially eschewed includes magnetic resonance imagers, which if available might have detected the cancer that killed his wife. He’s also angry because his children — Tom, who’s about 16, and Murph, 10 — are being taught almost exclusively about agriculture.

How narrow-minded is the emphasis on survival? It’s suggested, rather improbably, that the world’s military forces have disbanded. Also, we’re told that federally approved textbooks describe the 20th-century moon landings as a clever hoax that the U.S. government perpetrated to goad the Soviet Union into wasting enormous amounts of resources on space exploration.

Read the rest of this entry »

An atomic supervillain conquers Gotham in Christopher Nolan’s impressive, oppressive ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

September 23, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 23, 2014

Pity poor billionaire Bruce Wayne. At the start of The Dark Knight Rises, the 2012 blockbuster feature film based on DC Comics’s popular characters, the former bon vivant is a recluse with a limp and slightly shaggy facial hair. The troubled metropolis of Gotham has cleaned up its act in the eight years since the death of district attorney Harvey Dent at the end of The Dark Knight.

But Wayne (Christian Bale) keeps to himself, either unwilling or unable to move on after the Joker killed the love of his life, Rachel Dawes. And Wayne’s crime-fighting alter ego, Batman, whom most Gothamites unfairly blame for Dent’s death, hasn’t been seen since that the prosecutor’s demise.

The eponymous dark knight will be needed, however, because a new menace is approaching. The chief villain of British director Christopher Nolan’s third Batman movie is Bane (Tom Hardy), a mysterious masked man whose ruthlessness, strength and intelligence are only matched by his (and Nolan’s) ardor for labyrinthine plots. The Dark Knight Rises’s fast-paced beginning introduces Bane through an impressive midair hijacking in which he captures nuclear physicist Leonid Pavel and kills the CIA crew that had taken Pavel into custody. Bane also leaves behind one of his minions, noting that the authorities will expect a certain number of bodies in the wreckage. The henchmen obeys willingly, thereby enhancing the caper’s already ominous air.

There are a few other new characters (or new to Nolan’s Batverse, anyway). One is the impossibly limber Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a seductive thief whom we first see flirting with a local congressman. Moments later, she spars — verbally and otherwise — with the reclusive Wayne while attempting to steal his late mother’s string of pearls. Wayne is understandably captivated by the cat burglar, whom even casual fans will recognize as Catwoman despite the word not being uttered onscreen.

Read the rest of this entry »

A thief plants a seed: Intrigue abounds in ‘Inception,’ but it’s hard to find a reason to care

December 16, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 16, 2013

Dom Cobb is a master of his craft. The man at the heart of Christopher Nolan’s 2010 feature movie, Inception, is an extractor — an illegal operative who is handsomely paid to insert himself into dreams for the purpose of stealing secrets.

Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, has a problem. Its nature isn’t immediately clear, but it involves his being separated from his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard), and from their two young children.

The extractor is desperate enough to resolve his dilemma that he plunges himself, his wealthy employer and his team into a daring scheme. The plan hinges upon reversing the group’s normal modus operandi: Instead of stealing information from their target, they will plant an idea deep in his subconscious. The goal is to persuade industrialist heir Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) to disband his late father’s global energy monopoly, and to do so in such a way that Fischer believes the idea is his and his alone.

Cobb and his associates — businessman and Fischer rival Saito (Ken Watanabe), deputy extractors Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Eames (Tom Hardy), dream architect Ariadne (Ellen Page) and sleep-inducing chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao) — know that inception is supposed to be impossible, even though the extractor says that he’s done it. What most of them don’t know is that Cobb’s obsession with Mal (rhymes with doll) has grown so strong that it threatens to plunge the team into oblivion.

Read the rest of this entry »

‘Man of Steel’ offers a fascinating but rather grim take on DC Comics’ flagship superhero

July 3, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 3, 2013

There’s only one big problem with Man of Steel, director Zack Snyder’s new reboot of the Superman franchise: It’s just not very fun.

While this isn’t exactly a fatal flaw, it is a serious misstep. Yes, the film features many expected components of a comic book movie. The hero in the requisite form-fitting outfit flies and fights villains and ultimately prevails. But while the exercise is visually impressive, there simply aren’t many smiles to be had. This movie, which cries out for light touches, is dark and brooding and intense.

Snyder, who helmed and/or wrote 300, Watchmen and Sucker Punch, conspires with cinematographer Amir Mokri to drain most of the primary colors from the visual palette. Superman’s formerly bright-blue costume has been dulled to a steely hue; its bright-red highlights have darkened to crimson and been exiled to the hero’s cape. Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: