The Dark Knight Rises

Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy | PG-13 |

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ACTION

"You're not Batman anymore," Alfred (Michael Caine) tells his boss. By the looks of hobbled recluse Bruce Wayne (Bale) bent over his cane, it's a shock that he ever was. These are the darkest days in Christopher Nolan's epic trilogy, a morality play that all but restages the French Revolution in its final chapter, as a new villain topples the city. It's an engrossing story with a real sense of peril-as long as you ignore the dangerously gaping plot holes and long running time.

So what makes Batman dig his cape out of mothballs after eight years? A human brick named Bane (the gloriously menacing Hardy), bent on destroying Gotham, for some reason. While Bane gets assists from Hathaway's sly, sticky-fingered Selina Kyle (a.k.a. Catwoman), Batman has John Blake in his corner, a savvy cop played by the ferociously talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The cast, including Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon and Marion Cotillard as entrepreneur Miranda Tate, is flawless, but what they're supposed to be fighting about is murky at best, even after nearly three hours. The saving grace is that Dark Knight's last scenes are so rich and satisfying, it's easy to forgive the rest of the film its sins.

COSTUME FIRST LOOK

SPARKLE'S STUNNERS

Taking inspiration from icons like Twiggy and Diana Ross, costume designer Ruth Carter captured the mod glamour of 1960s Motown for the musical drama, out Aug. 17.

GLAMOUR GIRLS "I loved how the fashion showed women's curves while still leaving something to the imagination," says Jordin Sparks (right, with Tika Sumpter, left, and Carmen Ejogo).

RETRO CHIC Combining vintage finds with modern department-store discoveries, Carter created the trio's looks for the film, which tracks a young singer (Sparks) and her sisters (Sumpter, left, and Ejogo, center) as they form a Motown group. The '60s "was the first time that the skirt went up that high!" says Carter.

WHITNEY'S LAST ROLE "She told me she lived the story [of the film]," recalls Carter, who paired with designer B Michael on costumes for the late superstar, who plays Sparks's mom. "She put this on and said, 'This is it!'"

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