Looking at WNY’s visual art, theater, music, and dance scenes.
Jul 20, 2012
08:14 AMTalk about Arts
Movie Reviews: Beasts of the Southern Wild & The Dark Knight Rises
Films opening this weekend in Buffalo:
Beasts of the Southern Wild - Amherst Dipson - FULL REVIEW
The Dark Knight Rises - Maple Ridge; Market Arcade, Flix Dipsons; Elmwood, Transit, Galleria, Quaker, Hollywood Regals; Transit Drive-In FULL REVIEW
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Caught worlds away from industry and technological advancement, the tiny Louisiana Delta community known as the Bathtub exists inside its own fantastical arena of jovial poverty. Self-sufficient and fearful of those on the other side of the levee, these feral creatures subsist on the environment and teach their young how to carry on traditions uniquely their own. But as the adults attempt to ready the children for a hard life tempered only by alcoholic beverage and a boon of loudly crazed holidays, they can't protect them from horrors beyond their control.
Aligned with an innocent young girl named Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), we enter the Bathtub as though travelers to an exotic country. Dirty, cruel, and above all else free, its inhabitants are forever in motion as the rooster's call signifies feeding time for the animals and the day begins devoid of creature comforts we've become accustomed to on this side of civilization. These Beasts of the Southern Wild live in a self-exiled squalor of broken-down homes and trailers housing their most prized possessions—the memories of happier days trapped behind them.
Directed by Benh Zeitlin and shot by Ben Richardson, Beasts of the Southern Wild encompasses us with fiercely kinetic handheld camerawork. Portraying an America most believe doesn't exist, we join Hushpuppy and her ragtag kin's attempts to salvage their identity. Zeitlin and co-writer Lucy Alibar's parable plays on how the Delta's culture was almost wiped away by Hurricane Katrina and the plethora of storms ceaselessly pounding the area into submission. The filmmakers place us into the mind of an impressionable girl whose world is crumbling.
An existentialist commentary, the forces of nature crush her soul like the animals she once held to her ear with steady heartbeats rendered lifeless and still. Anxious, afraid, and alone, Hushpuppy must travel to the end of her world to find the courage to return. Through the unspoken love of a father and child, we watch humanity overcome obstacles to survive despite a Godless world's attempts to consume it.
Beasts of the Southern Wild 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½
 Quvenzhane Wallis as "Hushpuppy" and Dwight Henry as "Wink" on the set of BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD. Photo Credit: Jess Pinkham
The Dark Knight Rises
The trailer for the aptly described "epic" conclusion to director Christopher Nolan's caped crusader trilogy—The Dark Knight Rises—says it all through an emotional exchange between Batman (Christian Bale) and Catwoman (Anne Hathaway). Lamenting that he doesn't "owe these people any more" and he's "given them everything," she begs to run away from the anarchy ravaging Gotham. Having none of it, though, the billionaire playboy who molded a life of tragedy and its resulting anger into a beacon of protection sternly replies, "Not everything. Not yet."
At almost three hours in length, Nolan—with brother Jonathan and David S Goyer again assisting in fleshing out the story—goes all out to shatter his hero's psyche so he may rise without fear to rally the innocent prisoners of a mad man against their oppressor at risk of death. Operatic to the point of a prepubescent boy singing the "American Anthem" at a football game becoming a stark aria to evil's climactic takeover, one could argue the series has gone too far in terms of scope. There is an audacity at play in the trilogy's overblown, Shakespearian-scale denouement where the film's myriad characters must discover whether they possess the courage necessary to move away from darkness.
Gotham City becomes Bruce Wayne incarnate—a fragile, lawless shell overrun by the shadows of indefensible fear that must choose between heaven and hell for its salvation. We know which Wayne chose—the Batman is a glaring example of a Jesus-figure donning black in a continuous wrestling match with retribution. The city's decision isn't as easily made with its destroyer Bane (Tom Hardy) systematically erasing their once glowing figures of justice. Bane looks to cleanse Gotham through genocide.
It seems a simple premise on the surface, but finding Batman and Bane facing off for control of a neutron bomb set to wipe millions off the planet won't happen overnight. If I had a gripe with The Dark Knight Rises it's Nolan and company's desire to turn everything that occurred in the previous films into foreshadow. But rather than assume its audience is cognizant of this hero's trajectory, the filmmakers appear to love hitting us over the head with motivations so ingrained in the mythology of Batman that Americans practically know them at birth. Why must throwaway characters constantly tell him he hasn't the strength to overcome because of his assumed posh upbringing?
Tough to say it succeeds on its own merits, The Dark Knight Rises does give the kind of closure warranted by a saga so epically told despite its character's rather meager, pulpy origins. A tome that takes you exactly where you want to go inside the fabric of Nolan's Gotham, fans should find themselves immensely satisfied. Slower than the first two and containing less action, the story itself finds a way to take lofty goals and lay them out in a way that brings us full circle. Bale proves Batman to be a man—fallible, overly ambitious, and above all else mortal—and takes the role to its inevitable height of heroism. Hope endures amidst catastrophe as its symbol—the bat—lives on to inspire new generations of dreamers.
The Dark Knight Rises 8/10 | ★ ★ ★
 CHRISTIAN BALE as Batman in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' action thriller "THE DARK KNIGHT RISES," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. TM & © DC Comics. Photo by Ron Phillips
 TOM HARDY as Bane in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' action thriller "THE DARK KNIGHT RISES," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. TM & © DC Comics. Photo by Ron Phillips