Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters.
*** Note: "The Dark Knight Rises" was reviewed before the mass shooting early Friday at a screening of the movie in Colorado. As of Friday afternoon, there were reports that Warner Bros., the movie studio releasing the latest Batman movie, was considering cancelling weekend showings of the movie in the wake of the tragedy.
"THE DARK KNIGHT RISES"
Christopher Nolan saved the best for last, concluding the epic that started with "Batman Begins" (2005) and continued with "The Dark Knight" (2008), re-imagining the comic-book hero played by Christian Bale and making it relevant today.
Opening with a spectacular mid-flight skyjacking of a CIA plane, the storyline picks up eight years after the Dark Knight was blamed for the death of popular District Attorney Harvey Dent and banished from Gotham City. Retreating in isolation to his mansion, Bruce Wayne has become a lonely recluse. "You're not living; you're just waiting," chides his faithful butler, Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine).
But when he discovers an intrepid cat burglar, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), rifling through his safe, Wayne's curiosity is piqued, particularly when she cautions, "There's a storm coming, Mr. Wayne." At the same time, a terrorist/thug named Bane (Tom Hardy) surfaces, wearing a mysterious, militaristic mask not to conceal his identity but to anesthetize himself against agonizing pain, resulting from injuries he suffered in prison.
When compromised Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is hospitalized, he begs Batman to return, placing his trust in an idealistic, young protege, Officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). And wealthy philanthropist Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) becomes an influential ally when Wayne Enterprises, helmed by CEO/inventor Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), is the target of a hostile takeover. That's all you need to know -- and all you should know -- because there are surprises that no one should reveal.
Scripted by David S. Goyer, Jonathan Nolan and director Christopher Nolan, it's edge-of-the-seat exciting, ambiguously intriguing and emotionally involving -- photographed by Wally Pfister and scored by Hans Zimmer. Added to the Batcave arsenal, which includes the Batsuit, the Batmobile (a.k.a., the Tumbler) and the maneuverable, two-wheeled Bat-Pod, is a new airborne vehicle -- part Apache attack helicopter/part Osprey prop jet/part Harrier jump jet -- aptly named the Bat.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Dark Knight Rises" is a triumphant 10. Tense and terrific -- it's the best action-adventure of the summer!
"TO ROME WITH LOVE"
Continuing his cinematic tour of Europe, encompassing "Match Point," "Scoop," "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and "Midnight in Paris," among other diversions, writer/director Woody Allen arrives in Italy, where his ensemble cast courts anthology-style adventure and romance.
There's studious, young architect (Jesse Eisenberg), who is skeptically counseled by the surreal spirit of a celebrated, older architect (Alec Baldwin) as he's romantically torn between his steady girlfriend (Greta Gerwig) and her flirtatious actress pal (Ellen Page).
Meanwhile, an ambitious businessman Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) arrives from Pordenone with his naïve bride Millie (Alessandra Mastronardi), who gets lost looking for a hairdresser and encounters a legendary, lecherous movie star (Antonio Albanese), leaving Antonio alone in the hotel room when Anna (Penelope Cruz), a brazen prostitute, barges in, followed by his judgmental, elderly relatives who mistake her for his wife. Then there's unhappily retired American opera director Jerry (Woody Allen), who flies in with his acerbic psychiatrist wife Phyllis (Judy Davis) to join their daughter Hayley (Alison Pill) and meet her Italian fiance Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti), a left-wing lawyer whose mortician father Giancarlo (renowned tenor Fabio Armiliato) has an incredible voice -- when he's singing arias in the shower.
Finally, there's the ordinary, innocuous clerk (Oscar-winning "Life is Beautiful" Roberto Benigni), a Roman Everyman, who is stunned, then endearingly seduced by fame when he suddenly, inexplicably becomes a celebrity.
Not only does Woody Allen depict these vintage characters as absurdist stereotypes but he also recycles uneven plots and frivolous storylines, lifting an entire segment from Federico Fellini's "The White Sheik," in which honeymooners are separated and indulge in affairs with other lovers. Fellini concocted the word "paparazzi" in "La Dolce Vita."
While Allen's sophisticated timeline is tenuous -- some scenarios take place in one day, others stretch over weeks and never intersect -- the Eternal City continually shimmers through photographer Darius Khondji's lens, while the soundtrack combines romantic ballads and synthetic pop with operatic interludes.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "To Rome With Love" is a flighty, fanciful 5, amusing but quickly forgettable.
"KATY PERRY: PART OF ME"
Thousands of little girls dream of becoming pop stars -- but Katy Perry did it, reigning supreme as the only female artist to have five chart-topping singles from one album.
In this documentary, directors Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz ("Justin Bieber: Never Say Never") intercut concert footage from Perry's "California Dreams" 2011 world tour with backstage scenes, vintage home videos and intimate interviews and glimpses of family and friends, including ex-husband, British actor/comedian Russell Brand, whom she divorced while the movie was being made.
Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson was born on Oct. 25, 1984, in Santa Barbara, Calif. Guided by her Pentecostal minister parents, Katy and her siblings were strictly sheltered, forbidden access to stories like, "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Wizard of Oz," which were considered "satanic." They couldn't consume "pagan" Lucky Charms breakfast cereal or watch "The Smurfs." They weren't allowed to see "Sister Act," although their parents relented by the time "Sister Act II" rolled around.
While it's not surprising that Katy got her start as a Christian gospel singer, her ambitious transition from acoustic/hotel crooner to dazzling megastar is amazing.
Influenced by Alanis Morissette's feminism, Katy's first hit was the mildly scandalous, "I Kissed a Girl," which aptly reflects adolescent bisexual curiosity. With Katy Perry, what you see is what you get. Offstage, she's still an attention-seeking kewpie doll, working hard to achieve her Candyland artistic persona and allowing filmmakers to chronicle even her most tearful, melodramatic moments of marital despair, occurring just before a huge outdoor show in Brazil.
One cannot help admiring how Katy pays rapt attention to her fans, one of whom admits, "She tells me it's okay to be me," while another burbles, "I've been listening to her since I first heard her!"
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Katy Perry: Part of Me" is a sparkly, sequined 7, aimed at fanatic preteens who dissolve when Katy, as she rises from a hole in the stage to perform before a packed stadium, confesses: "This moment is my childhood dream come true."