This weekend brings the movie everyone has been waiting for, and the movie everyone should see. They are not the same movie.
The movie everyone has been waiting for, of course, is “The Dark Knight Rises,” the epic finale of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. Nolan ties up the loose ends as he brings Batman/Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) to his lowest point and dares him to climb back out. The movie introduces two intriguing villains, the sultry cat burglar Selina Kyle a k a Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and the brutal anarchist Bane (Tom Hardy), who aims to upend Gotham City's decay and corruption at all costs. The movie, clocking in at nearly three hours, is a slow burn at first – but the action sequences and satisfying finale are worth the wait.
The movie everyone should see is “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” this year's Grand Jury Prize winner at Sundance and easily the best movie of 2012 so far. Director Benh Zeitlin's blend of hard-hitting realism and magical fantasy centers on a little girl named Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) trying to make sense of her universe – which is The Bathtub, a ramshackle village in the Louisiana Delta. Zeitlin and co-writer Lucy Alibar bring together found objects, non-actors and bits of local culture to create a lyrically beautiful meditation on the links between the cosmically big and the intimately small. (Read The Cricket's interview with Zeitlin.)
Another Sundance award winner is “The Invisible War,” which took the Audience Award for documentaries. This moving film exposes the epidemic of rape and sexual assault within America's armed forces, which happened more than 19,000 times last year. Director Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering interview dozens of victims, who talk about the twin assaults – the initial rape, and the system's retaliation on the victims who report the crimes. The film will make you angry, and make you proud of the military women (and a few men) with the courage to stand up. (Read The Cricket's interview with Kirby Dick.)
Lastly, this week brings “Take This Waltz,” a ponderous romantic drama that's enlivened by a touching performance by Michelle Williams. She plays Margot, a depressed wife who starts making time with the hunky artist (Luke Kirby) who lives across the street – and contemplates being unfaithful to her nice but inattentive husband (Seth Rogen). Writer-director Sarah Polley tackles some deep themes, but her stilted dialogue gets in her way.