This month sees what must be one of the biggest releases of the year, if not the decade, the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy: The Dark Knight Rises. Along with the latest Pixar animation and a couple of smaller, though no less interesting films, this summer is going to be as hot in the cinema as it is on the streets of Tokyo.
Nestled between the release of Marvel comics’ The Amazing Spider-man last month and The Avengers in August comes The Dark Knight Rises (out July 28).
It’s been an agonizing four-year wait since The Dark Knight came to our screens and, with its intricate plot, vivid characters and a stunning performance by the late Heath Ledger, as The Joker, raised the bar on what we expect from a ‘comic book’ movie.
The internet has been awash with news leaks and every nugget of information that could be found on the film and fans have watched and re-watched the trailers in search of more clues to the plot.
All we know for certain is that its going to be huge. Christian Bale is returning to play the role of Bruce Wayne, the playboy socialite with the secret identity, Michael Caine is his faithful butler, Alfred, Gary Oldman plays Commissioner Gordon and Morgan Freeman brings Lucius Fox to life. Added to that impressive list are newcomers Tom Hardy, as the monstrous Bane, who broke Batman’s back in the comics, and Anne Hathaway as the seductive Catwoman.
When the previous film ended, Batman had saved the city but, by taking the blame for a murder he didn’t commit, he became an outlaw in doing so. Now, eight years on from those events, Batman must return once again to save Gotham from a new menace.
Christopher Nolan has stated this will be his last film in the series and has promised a satisfying conclusion to the story arc; these are big words but, from a man who has never put a foot wrong during a career that includes the excellent Memento and oscar-winning Inception, as well as his two earlier Bat films, this final chapter looks set to be a triumphant ending.
Brave (out July 21) is the latest computer animation from Pixar Animation Studios. Everything made by Pixar is special – from its first film in 1995, Toy Story, up to the more recent successes of WALL-E and Up.
Brave looks set to continue the trend of delightful, imaginative storytelling coupled with an enthusiasm to push current animation technology as far as it will go. This, the 13th film from the studio, is its first fairy tale and the first film with a female protagonist.
Set in a medieval-style Scotland, the story follows Merida, a feisty and headstrong young princess, skilled with a bow, who fights against her duty to marry the son of a Scottish lord and causes chaos in the kingdom. Seeking the help of an old witch, she is granted a wish, which inadvertently puts a curse on her family.
The voice work is provided by a range of stars, Kelly MacDonald, of the TV series Boardwalk Empire (she also played schoolgirl, Diane, in Trainspotting), voices Merida, Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson star as the king and queen respectively and Robbie Coltrane and Julie Walters also have roles.
Also on release this month is The Lady (out July 21), a biopic covering the life of Nobel Peace Prize winner and political activist Aung San Suu Kyi. Somewhat timely given the pro-democracy leader’s current tour of Europe, the film stars Michelle Yeoh in the title role.
Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of Aung San, a legendary leader who fought for Burmese independence but who was assassinated when his daughter was just two years old.
After moving to England, she falls in love with Oxford academic, Michael Aris, and the couple have two sons. It is on this relationship that the film focuses, with Aung San Suu Kyi’s return to Burma to take up her father’s position as leader and her subsequent imprisonment by the country’s military regime providing a dramatic backdrop to the central love story. The film is directed by Luc Besson and is a fascinating portrait of an incredible woman.
One final film of interest, again timely with the sporting world focussing recently on football, with Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, is United (out July 7).
Set in the late 50s, this is the tale of Manchester United’s ‘Busby Babes’, the youngest team ever to win the Football League and the Munich air disaster, a horrifying event in which the plane carrying the team crashed, claiming twenty-three lives.
Eight of those killed were United players, the rest airline and tour company staff, crew and journalists.
Starring Dougray Scott, as manager Matt Busby and the excellent David Tennant, as assistant manager Jimmy Murphy, this is a moving account of one of the worst disasters in English football history.
By Christopher O’Keeffe