Friday, August 29, 2008

Review: ‘Dark Knight’ rumours are all true

This was written a little while ago... but hey... the film is still on circuit...

The rumours began during the filming of The Dark Knight. One of the scenes in the film is where the Joker gatecrashes Bruce Wayne’s penthouse suite during a party. Sir Michael Caine, who had never met Heath Ledger before, had his first encounter with the 28-year-old on set during that scene. Caine got such a fright that he forgot his lines.

“A signature bad guy who will seriously scare your pants off,” was Caine’s tip-off to reporters ahead of the trailers being released. And so the hype began to build.

Three months earlier, the announcement that Ledger was chosen as the Joker over fellow candidates Robin Williams and Adrien Brody was greeted as (pardon the pun) a joke. But now, it seemed, he was going to have the last laugh (okay, enough now).

Then Ledger was reported dead. Immediate speculation ensued about his intense preparation for the role of the Joker. He lived alone in a hotel room for a month, formulating the character’s psychology, posture and voice (the last he found the most difficult to do). He started a diary, in which he wrote the Joker’s thoughts and feelings to guide himself during his performance.

Perhaps the most cryptic information surrounding Ledger’s death came from Jack Nicholson, who played a more camp and satirical Joker in the 1989 Batman.

“Well,” Nicholson told reporters in London, “I warned him.” The death was, in the end, attributed to an accidental overdose from drugs commonly prescribed in the United States for insomnia, anxiety, depression, pain and cold symptoms.

Of course, everyone is going to say Ledger was superb in the role, it’s Oscar-winning stuff, etcetera. It’s the polite thing to say about a guy who recently died. Perhaps the hype is attributed to the mystery of the character. There are no premiere interviews, no inside info from the actor himself, which makes the art of it so much more poignant and compelling. In the film itself, there is little background about the Joker, which dehumanises the character and makes him that much more frightening.

Truly, if there was no Joker, there would be no film. The character is constructed even when Ledger is not on screen, and therefore it’s easy to miss the excellent performances from everyone else: Christian Bale is smooth and articulate as playboy billionaire Bruce Wayne and the imposing Batman; Maggie Gyllenhaal brings more depth and believability to the character of Rachel Dawes than Katie Holmes did in the previous Begins film; and Aaron Eckhart is brilliant (although his character borderline boring) as Gotham’s “white knight” attorney, Harvey Dent.

Dent garners the trust and belief of Batman and Lieutenant Gordon (Gary Oldman) as the city’s saviour, but his high-profile successes soon make him a target, putting him squarely in the Joker’s sights.

This is a serious cast for a serious film. Not since The Godfather have audiences been subject to social commentary and such weighty, thought-provoking themes as in this film.

The Dark Knight engages in intricate debate on issues such as hopelessness and the moral compass of society, and director Christopher Nolan explores it all. Brilliantly.

Some think it’s too long. Don’t listen to them. The Dark Knight is intriguing, engaging and elaborate.

And yup, the rumours are true. Ledger was exhilarating. He had delivered the most spectacular and chilling curtain bow in Hollywood history.

Rating (out of 5 stars): *****

Film review: The Rocker

Rock 'n roll is dead. But you knew that from reading the stars at the bottom of the article first. No one understands it anymore. If anyone did, they wouldn't make movies like this. Boneheads. Two teenagers walked out after 20 minutes, leaving the two of us to fend for ourselves against the dragging tempo and off-key jokes. The Rocker. Yeah, right. The only thing it'll rock is you and your waning attention span to sleep.

Cool music, though. It casually conveys how heavy rock drummers from the '80s, when they don't keep with the trends, can simply plonk themselves into a modern pop rock band. Which is exactly what happens: in 1986, Robert "Fish" Fishman (Rainn Wilson) gets the boot from rock band Vesuvius, when his band-mates ditch him to clinch a record deal (because he's not photogenic enough). Fish lives with a grudge for 20 years, until his nephew Matt (Josh Gad) invites him to join his band.

Wilson is pretty passionate in the role. He's also very sweaty.

At least they cast a true singer in Teddy Geiger. But Fish never becomes someone to truly root for. His character is simply a wannabe version of Jack Black's School of Rock character, except Black blazed the trail. So essentially there's a whole lot of formula following.

Count in: tick, tick, tick, tick... doof, plonk, doof, plonk, drag... drag... drag... cool song... drag... lame joke... drag... and repeat cycle.

For those who don't slumber their way through this, there's a message of hope and never giving up on a dream. I liked that. I also liked the music. But calling the film The Rocker is misleading. The Rocker sounds exciting. It should have been called something long and boring. At least then you know what you're in for.

Rating (out of 5 stars): **

Thursday, August 28, 2008

When to have a camera ready...

In my work, the emphasis should always be that, as a journalist, you should have a camera ready. Always.

Here's why...

Because you just never know when that distinctive photo opportunity may present itself.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Starting a band...

Slipknot are probably (secretly) grateful to Morné Harmse. Well, okay... let me clarify. They are grateful for the publicity they have received. Probably not so much in light of the fact that their name is connected with a samurai sword killing.

Exactly what possessed the "thin and skinny" 18-year-old Harmse to do take a full-blooded swipe at Jacques Pretorius's neck with a "blunt" samurai sword? A number of people say it's Satanism. Others say it's the band Slipknot.

Lead screamer of the band Corey Taylor this week rejected claims that the band is to blame. He was quoted in Blender: "Obviously, I'm disturbed by the fact that people were hurt and someone died. As far as my responsibility for that goes, it stops there, because I know our message is actually very positive."

Okay, pardon my ignorance... but does this evoke positive feelings in you?

Taylor continues, "You have something like this happen, it could have been Marilyn Manson, it could have been any number of people who make art that is startling visually, on the darker side. It could've been Pat Boone, for Christ's sake. At the end of the day, there are always going to be mental disorders and people who cause violence for no other reason than the fact that they're f*cked up and lost. And all we can do is try to learn from it."

Okay, granted... there are mental disorders. But seriously... how can a bunch of mommy's boys veiled in black and dressed up in Hannibal Lector masks say that their whole vibe will not influence a guy like Morné?

Fine, it can be argued that a kid with self-esteem issues is not their responsibility or that he's not their "target market".

Anyway, enough of that.

I'd like to let you all know I'm gonna start a band. We're gonna buy V-shaped electric guitars, trenchcoats and eyeliner. We'll use the money we save from not going to the hairdresser for 6 months and living in our beat-up Volkswagen Beatle. In order to be relevant to the young market - you know, guys like Morné Harmse who aren't in the "in-crowd" - we'll write lyrics that they can identify with. There must be tons of those kind of kids around - kids who don't fit in. We may have to scream occasionally, because that's cool and that's what kids can identify with in their emotionally-beat up state. We'll slate off the government, societal structures and all the other boneheads who keep making stupid decisions.

Kids will love us. They'll dress like us, scream our tunes and come to all the gigs. They'll get what we're saying and we'll get what they saying - like All Hope Is Gone and Psychosocial.

We'll become this Grammy-award winning group and once we achieve that, we can say what we want. We'll use phrases like "the devil is among us" and "the hell is humongous". Our fans, who listen - like, really listen - to our music, will understand. They'll get what we're saying. They'll have to think about it, but they'll identify with what we're saying.

You'll always have the freaks, the pshycos. They won't get it. The guys in the media won't get it either - they never get anything. Our fans will understand why we dress the way we do, why we sing what we sing, why we do what we do on stage and how we act to get a point across.

If people blame us for some kid acting out of turn, we'll tell them to **** off. What do they know anyway. We don't need them. We've got our fans. The rest of the world can go to hell. We don't care.