Monday, 23 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises Review

When Christopher Nolan took on the job of retelling the Batman story the franchise was in tatters.

The last film before Nolan took the reigns, Batman And Robin (1997) took a critical beating, with the then lead actor, George Clooney quoted in The Boston Globe as saying "I think we might have killed the franchise". Although the film still took decent money at the box office Warner Bros. didn't bring back Gotham's protector for another big screen outing until 2005 with Batman Begins.

The critical and commercial success of Batman Begins led to the inevitable sequel in the form of The Dark Knight (2008) which wowed audiences with it's fantastic set pieces and a barnstorming performance from Heath Ledger as Batman's arch nemesis The Joker.

This year sees the release of the last of Nolan's Batman trilogy The Dark Knight Rises, which has a very tough act to follow, not only from its much admired predecessors, but also from the super impressive Avengers Assemble from Marvel Studios.

Christopher Nolan's vision of the Batman universe is one that reflects the concerns of the real world (terrorism, corrupt bankers, the 99% etc.) rather than venturing in to the more fantastical territory preferred by Joel Schumacher. Detractors have criticised this trilogy for being bleak, and I must confess that prior to seeing this latest installment, I had found Avengers Assemble to be a fun and entertaining breath of fresh air in its take on how superheroes can be transferred to the big screen.

With no Joker to antagonise Bats this time around, the villain duties fall to Bane, played by an almost unrecognisable Tom Hardy, and believe me, this guy is no pushover.

It's been eight years since the events of the previous film, and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse, the Batman having taken the blame for the misdemeanours of former district attorney Harvey Dent, in order to create a period of calm and peace in the city of Gotham.

It's been a good eight years for the citizens of the city, due to Dent's legislation being passed the prisons are now full of the scum who had previously thought themselves untouchable. However the arrival of Bane on the scene means Batman must consider coming out of his self imposed exile.

The new additions to the cast work well, and compliment the quality brought to the series by its established ensemble. Anne Hathaway is likeable as Selina Kyle (I don't recall her being referred to as Cat Woman during the film) and you are under no illusion that she could change her allegiance at any point as the balance of power shifts throughout the course of the film.

Tom Hardy as Bane is an intimidating hulk of a man, although I felt his performance was possibly affected by the mask that his character wears, not only because it affects the clarity of his dialogue, which has been tweaked after some grumbling from those who had seen the prologue, but it also obscures his mouth which must make it very difficult for him to convey emotion.

The most impressive of the newcomers in my opinion was Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays police officer John Blake. His character is a minor figure who gets drawn in to the sequence of events unfolding in Gotham. Nothing flashy, but very well acted, and a character that I, as a viewer, could identify with.

As ever in this trilogy the action set pieces are spectacular, and because Batman doesn't possess super powers he must depend upon his intellect, his unarmed combat skills and of course an armoury of incredibly cool gadgets, including some new ones introduced in this final film.

The film is long, clocking in at 165 minutes, but every minute is used well, with no unnecessary padding. It serves as a solid bookend to the series, while it might not have the craziness of The Dark Knight, it succeeds in delivering an epic finale to a truly memorable trilogy.

If Nolan can work such wonders with Batman, just think what he could achieve were he ever given the opportunity to have a crack at James Bond!

One of my must see films of 2012.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Escot Park

My other half Amy and I are both suckers for cute animals, so with a little time on our hands we drove down to Escot Park near Honiton to see if we could get a glimpse of some great British wildlife.

We headed straight for the Red Squirrel enclosure to try and see those cute little critters up close, but after hanging around for quite a while, they were conspicuous by their absence.....

So, we decided to wander off and come back later.

When we returned there were two very cute, and surprisingly small, Red Squirrels.

If you live nearby, or are in the area on holiday, Escot is well worth the trip. As well as the squirrels there are birds of prey and falconry, seahorses, woodland walks, Letterboxing (a kind of treasure hunt) in the beautiful gardens including a maze, and a play area to keep kids amused.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Barrett: The Definitive Visual Guide

Roger Keith "Syd" Barrett was a founding member and singer/songwriter/lead guitarist of Pink Floyd, he even came up with the group's name, mixing together the names of two of his favourite blues artists Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.

Syd's rise to fame came quickly, and after the initial success of early singles Arnold Layne and See Emily Play and the Pink Floyd's debut album The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, his health began to decline. It has been argued that Syd had psychological issues prior to his brush with stardom, but the opinion of those closest to him at the time seems to point toward Syd's increasing use of psychedelic drugs as the cause of his breakdown, not helped by some of his many hangers on lacing his food and drinks with LSD.

After a period of trying to work around Syd's increasingly erratic behaviour, the others in the band decided that they had had enough, so one day en route to a performance they decided not to pick him up, and not long after, Barrett's departure from the band was officially announced.

After his time with Pink Floyd he made a couple of solo albums that offered glimpses of the musical genius he had to offer, but he found performing live increasingly stressful and decided to leave music behind and withdraw from the world of celebrity and stardom altogether.

Returning to his family home in Cambridge to live a quiet and peaceful life (apart from his occasional run ins with the tabloid press and well meaning but over zealous fans) Syd took up painting again which he had dreamed of making his career, before he became obsessed with being a pop star (he also wrote a book about the history of art for his own pleasure, which remains unpublished).

The coffee table book Barrett: The Definitive Visual Guide (published in March 2011) is the most comprehensive collection of Syd's artwork combined with a photographic history of Syd and Pink Floyd.

This large format limited edition book is available in two editions, the classic edition is presented in orange brilianta cloth binding with a green, foil embossed slip case.

The signature edition comes in an orange brilianta bound hinged box with two volumes contained within, volume 1 has over 250 images including more than 100 never seen before this collection was released, plus illustrated letters. Volume 2 is a tan leather bound collection of recently restored photographs taken during rehearsals with Pink Floyd in 1967. This set is signed by the authors and is also signed by one of Syd's siblings and is limited to only 500 copies.

Syd sadly passed away on 7th July 2006. If, like me, you ever felt a connection with Syd Barrett's work, this is a beautifully presented record of one of the 20th century's most iconic and unique artists, a wonderful celebration of a truly remarkable human being.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy the website can be found here

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Podcast Episode 7 Doctor Who Season 7

Mark is joined by Matt Barber to discuss Jon Pertwee's first series of Doctor Who, with a whole bunch of other Doctor Who related topics covered along the way.