Box Office Preview: The Dark Knight is Finally Rising!

The Dark Knight Rises

After a four (although it felt like 400) year wait, the Caped Crusader is finally back in the third and final film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, “The Dark Knight Rises.” I don’t think I’d be able to do the plot justice in just a few sentences, so let’s stick to the official synopsis (although it doesn’t really capture the complexities either):

It has been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act. But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane.

For obvious reasons, the Joker won’t be appearing in the film. There’s plenty of room for argument, but I absolutely think Nolan and company made the right decision in not recasting the role. Although we won’t be getting any more of the Clown Prince of Crime, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman will return as Bruce Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth, Lucius Fox, and Commissioner Gordon, respectively. The new additions to the cast are just as impressive. Anne Hathaway will play Selina Kyle, also known as Catwoman, and Tom Hardy will play Bane, the film’s main villain. Joseph Gordon-Levitt will be playing a young cop named Robin John Blake, and Marion Cotillard appears as Miranda Tate. If you couldn’t tell, when Nolan likes an actor, he’s not the type who doesn’t call back. What is that, half the cast of “Inception?” And Ellen Page probably would’ve made an awesome Harley Quinn.

Currently certified fresh and sitting at an 87 percent on the Tomatometer, it’s a foregone conclusion that “The Dark Knight Rises” is going to be awesome. How couldn’t it be? It’s Christopher Nolan. It’s Batman! The only thing that could ruin it is if you go into the theater expecting it to top 2008’s “The Dark Knight.” Don’t do that, it’s not fair. The new film’s predecessor isn’t just the best Batman movie of all time, or the best superhero movie of all time, or the best in this genre or that one, it’s among the top ten films ever made, period. Even if Heath Ledger hadn’t ruined things but up and dying on us (too soon?), it’s unlikely this film could top that one.

No other movies are seeing a wide release this week, because no one messes with the Batman. I’m posting the trailer below, both so you can check it out and to avoid the spoilers I’ve heard are all over YouTube comments sections (I can’t say for sure, because I refuse to look, not even for you, dear reader).

Follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.

  

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A Roundtable Chat with actress Lesley Manville (“Another Year”)

A classic case of an “overnight success” who’s been working successfully for decades, Lesley Manville was just starting to be able to bask in the glow of a job extremely well done during the junket for “Another Year” last month. A few weeks later, the already simmering Oscar speculation around her performance in the latest film from maverick English director Mike Leigh got an early boost: she won the Best Actress award from the influential National Board of Review alongside a number of nominations elsewhere.

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Lesley Manville began her career on the stage and British television, making her film debut with a minor role in Mike Newell’s 1985 melodrama, “Dance With a Stranger.” In 1988, she appeared in Mike Leigh’s worldwide breakthrough comedy, “High Hopes,” the first of six films so far with the director known for his uniquely collaborative approach. Notable roles in Leigh’s historically-based “Vera Drake” and “Topsy-Turvy” followed, along with numerous less well known films and television shows. It’s possible that she’s best known to the mass U.S. audience as Mrs. Cratchit from Robert Zemickis’ motion-capture “A Christmas Carol.”

In “Another Year,” Manville portrays Mary, a lonely and progressively more depressed alcoholic whose visits to the home of a contented therapist coworker (Ruth Sheen) and her husband (Jim Broadbent), become increasingly painful. It’s a powerful and all too real-seeming portrayal that has hit Manville’s career with enormous force.

Even without a huge number of awards, I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot of Manville from now on. During the post roundtable chatter, I half jokingly suggested that she should work on her American accent, and she reminded me that she had just recently finished doing the very American play by John Guare, “Six Degrees of Separation.”

Things got a bit interesting late in this group interview, when one of the other writers present asked a question which Manville, perhaps stung by some past public discussion of her short-lived late 1980s marriage to Gary Oldman, deemed overly personal. With a little luck, Lesley Manville will have to deal with more prying from less from the press in years ahead.

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It’s your pre-Labor Day end-of-week movie news dump. Yay.

As the madcap summer movie series ends, just a few items to wrap up the silly season.

* Not silly at all and quite possibly tragic. It appears there was a very serious stunt-related accident on the set of “Transformers 3,” or perhaps it was a not so stunt-related “freak accident,” says Nikki Finke.

* L’affaire Depardieu et Binoche est tres bizarre. (If my French is incorrect and it almost certainly is, please send complaints to the UCLA languages department.)

* The concept art from the canned Pixar film, “Newt,” is beautiful. Maybe someday we’ll get to see the abandoned footage. Their discards are probably at least twice as good as most finished films.

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* I have a feeling we’re going to hear a lot about “The Black Swan” through Oscar season. It apparently wowed them in Venice though the thoughtful and quirky cinephile critic emeritus J. Hoberman of Village Voice finds it “borderline risible.” To me, remaking “The Red Shoes” with a dash of Dario Argento and even DePalma (not my favorite) sure sounds pretty cool.

* Christopher Rosen may be a doubter, but I say keep hope alive, Kristen Bell!

* Director Tomas Alfredson, who did such a great job on “Let the Right One In,” is shifting genres from very young vampires to depressive real-world style spooks like George Smiley (Gary Oldman this time ’round) in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” Michael Fassbender, however, left to be a superhero so now Tom Hardy of “Inception” is stepping in. That should work okay, too. (I finally saw “Inception,” by the way, and…I’m too tired to talk about it now, which is sort of how I felt as I was watching it, actually.)

* Is “Hunger Games” really “The Running Man” with teens or more like “Battle Royale” made safe for an American audience? Sam Mendes, Gary Ross and David Slade duke it out to see who’ll realize whatever it is. Interesting to see the name of the talented writer Billy Ray involved here.

* Crocodile Dundee may now roam free in the Outback — I mean the branch of the steakhouse chain in Burbank.

  

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Blu Tuesday: Harry Potter Ultimate Editions

The release of the new “Harry Potter” Ultimate Edition Blu-rays may seem a little premature considering the last two movies won’t even hit theaters until 2010 and 2011, respectively, but I actually like Warner Brothers’ aggressiveness with getting the first batch out so soon. Not only does that give them ample time to put out the other four movies before the release of “Deathly Hallows: Part One,” but it’s also a great way to ring in the new decade. After all, “Harry Potter” had a massive impact on pop culture over these last ten years, and what better way to celebrate that than with a really cool collector’s set?

Having said that, however, the Ultimate Editions are really only for those diehard fans that want to know anything and everything about the making of the films, because with the exception of a new series of featurettes called “Creating the World of Harry Potter” (with a new installment appearing on each release), these are nearly identical to the original Blu-ray and DVD releases. The addition of extended versions of both “Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Chamber of Secrets” is a nice touch (as are the Chocolate Frog-inspired character cards that come packaged in the box set), but the only reason anyone should be buying these are for the aforementioned featurettes and their corresponding books.

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Batman go seek

My box office preview will be up, I assure you, first thing in the morning. In the meantime, via Roger Ebert, a scene from whichever “Batman” movie it was where neither Gary Oldman nor Pat Hingle played Jim Gordon. In this searing movie moment, we see a new, strangely flawed side of the Batman’s tortured soul.

  

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