Posts Tagged ‘Ken Watanabe’

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

December 6, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
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).

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‘Godzilla’ brings the monsters and action but leaves characters (plus a potentially important environmental subtext) behind

May 26, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 26, 2014

The opening credits of the new film Godzilla follow a conceit. We are viewing classified photographs and footage from the 1940s and 1950s, accompanied by snippets of text from formerly secret documents. As is typical when governments release such papers publicly, many of the words are censored — thick lines appear before our eyes, obscuring material that is still deemed secret. The words that remain are names and titles. (For example, we’ll see “music,” censor lines and then “Alexandre Desplat,” the name of the film’s composer.)

I found this to be an amusing approach to the material at hand, which incorporates real-life nuclear weapons tests into its fictional story. We’re told, for instance, that the bombs detonated in the Pacific were actually strikes against Godzilla, an enormous prehistoric predacious lizard that was somehow discovered in the 20th century. Would that the film had been able to be so consistently clever throughout. Alas…

The film opens in 1999 when scientists Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) walk into the remains of a long-dead Godzilla-type creature that has just been discovered at a remote mining operation. Inside the immense corpse, they find two pods. One is intact and evidently dormant; the other, apparently catalyzed by exposure to air, has just hatched, releasing…something. The scientists, who work for a secret project known as Monarch, gape in amazement at the trail of flattened trees left in the something’s wake.

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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
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
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.

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