Movie Reviews

Eight years after banishing organised crime from Gotham City Christian Bale skulks in Wayne Manor, a physically and psychologically scarred man.

“A war hero in peacetime” is how Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is described, but it’s a neat summation of Batman’s dilemma too: What need does the world have of a superhero when justice has already been served? Enter a new nemesis, arch-anarchist Bane (Tom Hardy), who targets the world’s money-making nerve-centre — director Christopher Nolan makes it explicit that Gotham and Manhattan are one and the same — in order to destroy society. That’s the kind of challenge Wayne can’t resist, and soon he dons the cape and joins up with Gordon and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), and rookie cop, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Oh, and there’s a feline friend too: Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) is never referred to as Catwoman, but she plays a cat burglar who resents Bruce Wayne’s privileged background and isn’t above stealing a little of it for herself. The third in Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, after Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (12A) sags badly under the weight of expectation, but Nolan doesn’t help by cramming every superhero movie trope possible into the 164-minute running time. Funky hardware and nuclear weaponry jostle with camp costumes and risible plotting, although the most ludicrous aspect is the Robespierre-style terror that follows Bane’s revolution on Manhattan, with our very own Cillian Murphy in high old form as an insane judge passing the death sentence on innocent citizens. It’s a solid action flick, but it’s long and convoluted but simultaneously staid and bombastic, with only a pair of scene-stealing performances from Gordon-Levitt and Hathaway providing the kind of irreverent debunking of the comic book myth that Nolan’s Batman was supposed to provide.

“This is not the time for a magical fable,” declares the voiceover as Dr Seuss’ The Lorax (G) opens, although tongues are so firmly stuffed into cheeks it’s a minor miracle we can make out the words. First published in 1972, Dr Seuss’ The Lorax is as timely a piece of soft-focus agit-prop today as it was four decades ago, as young Ted (voiced by Zac Efron) goes in search of a real tree in order to impress Audrey (Taylor Swift), the nature-loving girl next door. Leaving behind the hermetically sealed town of Thneed-Ville, Ted discovers a smog-polluted world devoid of any vegetation. Out on the barrens he encounters the Once-ler (Ed Helms), a sinister old man who recounts how he despoiled the valley where Thneed-Ville now stands, despite the best efforts of The Lorax (Danny DeVito), a sprite-like creature who defends the natural world. Can Ted invoke the spirit of the Lorax and reverse the damage? A charming tale from the makers of Despicable Me (2010), The Lorax offers the pin-sharp animation and knockabout fun of its predecessor, even if it lacks that movie’s mischievous anarchy. The film wears its polemic lightly, and essentially boils down to whether you’re for or against trees. My four-year-old accomplice, sent along to the screening to hold my hand if I took fright, enjoyed herself immensely.

Directed by Ice-T and Andy Baybutt, Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap (15A) features Ice-T exploring the origins of rap “from South Bronx to the West Coast”. It’s not about the bling and the girls, he declares early on in a quasi-manifesto: It’s about the craft, the linguistic skills that emerged from slavery and “the dozens”, the centuries-old practice of publicly riffing on insults which developed into a kind of duel, using rhyme, slang and poetry as weapons. Ice-T’s reputation gains him access to a phenomenal number of talking heads, including Grandmaster Caz, Afrika Bambaata, and Big Daddy Kane, working his way chronologically through the evolution of rap via Chuck D, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Eminem. Arguably, this is the film’s biggest drawback: With so many artists to interview, there isn’t sufficient time to explore rap’s development in the wider cultural context. That said, it’s a fascinating document of an art form that exploded from the margins to colonise the mainstream.

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