Tag Archive: the Batman


Batman: Noel

 

So what happens when you take Batman and his mythology, and apply it to the timeless holiday story, ‘A Christmas Carol’?  The result is ‘Batman: Noel’, a well done hybrid of two very popular stories/characters.

I’m going to assume somewhere down the line you’ve seen at least one version of A Christmas Carol so you know all the basics of that story.  In this adaptation, Batman/Bruce Wayne is the Ebenezer Scrooge.  Part of the fun of this graphic novel is seeing who from the Batman mythology takes on the roles of Christmases Past, Present, and Future, so no spoilers from me in that regard.  This book is ‘written’ by Lee Bermejo, who also did a well received comic last year, ‘Joker’.  As in that book, the characters in ‘Noel’ all take on a ‘realistic’ look.  The influence of Nolan on the Batman character has extended well into the comic book universe.

I won’t go as far as others and give this one ‘instant classic’ status, but it’s a worthwhile addition to this ‘Golden Age of Batman’ the character is living in right now.

Batman: Year One

 

The latest animated feature from Warner Bros. Animation is a very faithful recreation of the classic comic, ‘Batman: Year One.’

(In the interest of full disclosure I’ll tell you that I’ve met the director of this film, Sam Liu, and talked briefly about the Batman.  Not on any kind of business thing, just one of those ‘Hollywood is really just a small town that’s centered around TV and mvoies type of thing.’  He’s a friend of a friend.  Now having gotten that out of the way, if you really think that chatting briefly and non-chalantly with the director of the film would bias me toward any favoritism toward this particular character, I don’t…I just can’t…)

For those unfamiliar, the comic ‘Batman: Year One’ is very true to the title: a 25 year old Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham after years away with plenty of methods to fight crime but missing…’something’.  At the same time, young Lieutenant James Gordon arrives in Gotham with a pregnant wife and a reputation as a good cop trying to survive in a horribly corrupt police department.  If these beats (and others in the story) are familiar, Chris Nolan borrowed a lot of the story points from this comic for both of his excellent Batman films.

So how does the animated film measure up?  Quite well in my opinion.  The most notable difference to me (as someone very familiar with the comic) is that the ‘voiceover’ of the comic has been pretty much taken out.  It was a great choice; for the most part the audience experiences the story in ‘real time’ with Gordon and Bruce.  The biggest name in the voice acting by Bryan Cranston (‘Breaking Bad’) as Lieutenant Gordon, as the true ‘star’ of the story I think he did well with the idea of what we all imagine the future Commissioner to sound like after so many interpretations. There’s another nice ‘in joke’ where certain dolls from the comic have clearly been replaced by characters owned by Warner Brothers, but that’s only noticeable if you know the comic.

As far as Warner’s animated films go, I’d put this behind ‘Under the Red Hood’ in terms of quality.  Highly recommend if you haven’t ever read the comic.

‘Batman: Year One’ is out now on Blu-Ray/DVD, ITunes and On-Demand on certain cable outlets (like mine).

 

It seems no one is happy in Hollywood right now.

In this month’s GQ, Clint Eastwood and Leonardo Dicaprio sit down for an interview to promote their upcoming film, J. Edgar. During the interview, both men, who happen to be icons for each of their generations, lament on how difficult it is to greenlight serious dramas like the film they just colloborated on.  I feel pity for them (sarcasm), but it does beg the question: if two guys of the status of Clint and Leo aren’t happy with the studio system these days, then who is?

Is it the suits?  A week doesn’t pass without hearing one of my creative friends complain about pitching to someone who only sees their vision as some type of Moneyball formula: Actor X + Director Y = Genre Pic Z.  I know my fair share of suits as well though, and from their side of the table, Hollywood doesn’t sound like a seller’s market these days.

A lot of Clint and Leo’s nostalgia is for 70s era cinema, when the director had the freedom to try new things and be auteurs.  But those days are over unless your name is James Cameron.  Actors ebb and flow their way to the top of the food chain.  At their last peak, the action star era of the 80s, they were the movie stars.  But in our current era, the franchises themselves have become the movie stars.  What about writers?  In television, maybe.  In film?  Please.

Tyler Perry made the most money in Hollywood last year but…was he really ‘in’ Hollywood?  I’d argue no, which is part of why he’s so beloved and successful with his core audience.  And what about ‘the audience’?  In theory the goal of the game is to provide something that makes you want to leave home and experience it on the big screen in a dark room with a group of strangers.  But have there been any ‘must see’ films this year (if you’re not a Harry Potter fan)?

So to summarize, the bean counters have little to no incentive to creating ‘great art’, the artists may have the desire but rarely have the power to push their vision through, and the audience is rarely motivated to come out en masse for a film.  The question needs to be asked: will someone or something ‘rise’ that unites the business and creative sides of Hollywood, while pulling in the masses to see what the big deal is?

Was this whole post an elaborate ruse to post that trailer?  No.

Am I willing to give Hollywood a free pass for another 296 days if it means there’s a reasonable chance the system pumps out one more above average Batman film?  Yes.

Suck it America.

Suck it.

 

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The Batman is well known to be my favorite fictional character.  Popular for 70 years and running, I’m going to assume you know the basics either through regular pop culture or the massive success of the Chris Nolan movies.  So the angle I’m taking here is to talk about my five favorite Batman stories from the comics.  I’m nowhere near a hardcore comic guy, but I have friends who are, and knowing how much I enjoy Bruce Wayne, over the years they’ve pointed me to a lot of the great graphic novels…

Batman: Year One – written by Frank Miller, this story is the essential starting point for the current incarnation of the Dark Knight.  Young handsome socialite Bruce Wayne has returned to his hometown of Gotham after spending many years abroad.  Around the same time, Detective James Gordon transfers into the Gotham Police Department, but is quickly disgusted by the level of corruption, and does what he can to remain one of the city’s good cops.  Starting on opposite sides, by the end the vigilante and the hero cop form an alliance to bring hope back to a hopeless city.  A major, major influence on Batman Begins.

The Long Halloween – widely regarded as ‘Year Two’ in the Batman universe, this old school murder mystery has the Batman trying to track down a mysterious serial killer who’s taking out members of Gotham’s underworld on holidays.  Batman and Det. Gordon are joined on their crusade by young charismatic District Attorney Harvey Dent, but a tragic accident turns their friend into a very dangerous enemy.  Yep, a major influence on The Dark Knight.

Dark Victory – Set a year after the events of the Long Halloween, a new serial killer is on the loose, with all signs pointing toward Harvey ‘Two Face’ Dent.  In the early stages of the Batman’s crusade, a tragic accident at the circus leaves a young acrobat orphaned.  Feeling a kinship with the kid, Bruce takes him under his wing, eventually as a partner.  The modern day introduction of the Dynamic Duo.

The Killing Joke – simply stated, the greatest Joker story ever told.  Taking over an amusement park, the Joker decides to use Commissioner Gordon to prove his theory, ‘all it takes is one really bad day to make anyone go insane.’  Through flashback, we get one ‘possible’ origin of the Joker, where he was a struggling comedian who got mixed in with the wrong crowd, lost his wife and child through a freak accident, and just…snapped.  To get to Gordon, he shoots his daughter Barbara (paralyzing her for life), rapes her, then kidnaps Gordon and shows him the pictures of the rape blown up to IMAX size.  Gordon refuses to snap, and when Batman finally catches up to him, the Joker (correctly) theorizes that somewhere in the past it was ‘one really bad day’ that made a grown man dress up like a flying rat.  The Batman tries to talk sense to the Joker, knowing their mano e mano is leading toward a fatal resolution, but the Joker, in a rare moment of clarity, tells him it’s too late for that, before telling a joke that points out (correctly again) that Batman is just as insane, he just happens to be fighting on the right side of the law.  A great story all around, and um, not for the kiddies…

Knightfall – my single favorite Batman story.  I actually prefer the novelization to the year long comic version.  This is the story that introduces the villain Bane, who comes up with one of the best plans ever:  break out all the arch villains in Arkham Asylum, let Batman chase them down, and when he’s exhausted, then make your move.  Even as Batman senses Bane’s plan, he has to push forward and capture all the master criminals.  He’s no match for Bane, who breaks the Batman’s back, leaving him for dead.  Bruce chooses newcomer Jean Paul Valley to take up the cowl; the kid has all the physical attributes, but is much more brutal than Bruce ever was under the cowl.  The ‘new’ Batman defeats Bane, but doesn’t give up the cowl when Bruce makes a full recovery.  Bruce eventually defeats his wayward apprentice of course, who becomes Azrael, an ally in present Batman stories.

Honorable mention goes to the song, The Dark Knight, the final track on Hans Zimmer’s score for the last movie.  Over 15 minutes long, the theme creates the mood for the final scene of the movie, and in my humble opinion, makes great ‘speeding down the 101 at three in the morning’ music for wannabe Caped Crusaders.

 

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Hey, did, did someone correctly predict four out of five in the major categories?  (And I said I could see Penelope winning, scroll down.)  Maybe I should think about a career in the movie industry?  No, this year was fairly predictable if you’ve been following awards season.  Anyway, quick thoughts on the show in no particular order…

Thought the change in format was excellent.  Don’t know if you can do this every year, but it was great to be different.

Hugh Jackman’s opening was a nice way to set the mood, but I was hoping they wouldn’t overdo the ‘musical’ thing.  Uh oh…

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but Man on Wire is a really enjoyable documentary if you haven’t seen it.  Don’t let the quirky French cat who balanced the Oscar on his face turn you off to it if you haven’t seen it.

Five past winners welcoming the ‘new kid’ into the club?  Brilliant.  That can stay.

How the hell did they convince Jerry Lewis to keep it short?

The first musical number was the first thing to pull me out of the show.  But Beyonce showing off that thickness in the red piece?  As a great man once said, “Great googly moogly.”

Let’s get these out of the way with one train of thought:  Right as I was daydreaming about how smooth and natural Alicia Keys-Aziz sounds, my ‘Best Man’ had to text me to tell me she was wearing too much makeup.  I don’t know why but they cracked me up.

But in case there was any doubt about who is still the Sexiest and Most Beautiful Black Woman on the Planet, Halle Berry had to show up and remind the young’uns she ain’t giving up her crown anytime soon.

Alright, now back to the show…

I’m a fan of Queen Latifah, but I was a little irritated they had to sing through the In Memoriam part of the show.  Sydney Pollack was a guest in one of my classes once; incredibly down to earth for a guy of his stature.  And Paul Newman, man.  As Dragline said in Cool Hand Luke, “You, my friend, are an original.” 

You probably know I’m a sports fan, which means you probably know I’m a little superstitious.  I was genuinely worried I was bringing bad karma onto Heath for pouting about The Dark Knight not being nominated more in my predictions column.  I was going to watch the film before the show, but held off.  I was more than ready to toss over every piece of furniture in the house if I heard any other name announced.  So to say I was relieved was an understatment.  A year ago, if you would have told me that any non special effects aspect of a Batman film was a lock for an Academy Award, I would have gladly taken it.  Perspective people.  One last time, thank you Heath.

Happy to see Kate Winslet join the club finally.

I got love for Mickey Rourke, but I was delighted to see Sean Penn ‘officially’ hit Icon status with another Academy Award.  Loved the fact DeNiro was up there too; those are the kind of things I geek out over no matter how old I get.

What else needs to be said about Slumdog Millionaire?  However you want to define the term, it really was ‘The Movie of the Year.’

 

 

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In no particular order…

I overlooked Viola Davis (Doubt) during the Golden Globes, so let me start by saying I’m glad that sister got nominated.  But I’m really, really happy for Taraji P. Henson.  She’s moving up quickly and she more than deserves the attention.

I usually don’t cover documentaries in my predictions, but I checked out this flick called Man On Wire last week and really enjoyed it.  I see it’s up for Best Documentary and suggest it if you haven’t seen it.  It’s the story of this French kid who dreamed of tightrope walking between the Twin Towers, and ended up doing it in the 70s.  It reminded of one of my favorite movie lines (from Vanilla Sky), “What is life if not the pursuit of a dream?”

I don’t even think I’ve even verbalized this to my partner in crime, but one of my ‘super duper’ Hollywood dreams would be to host the Oscars one day.  It’s a thankless job, the biggest stage in town on the biggest night (a perfect marriage with my ambitious side).  And it’s a short list of ‘us’ who’s ever had the chance: Sammy, Richard Pryor (as co-hosts), Chris Rock, and of course Whoopi.  You have to be comfortable in a tux, you have to be acceptable to the mainstream, and you have to keep the show moving.  Who knows, maybe our new president made that dream a little more realistic for me someday.

The Dark Knight got eight nominations, including one for Heath for Best Supporting Actor.  But no Best Picture nomination, no nomination for Christopher Nolan for Best Director.  Eh, moving on…

I’ve got a few more movies to see, but I won’t be reviewing them here on the blog.  For now all I can say is stay tuned…

The Dark Knight

 

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The Dark Knight recieved one Golden Globe nomination, for Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. 

“You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

My time finally freed up enough that I was able to watch Batman Begins and The Dark Knight back to back (on the Blu-Ray, swish!)  I’ve talked on the blog before about my affection for both films as a lifelong Batman fan, so this moment belongs to Heath Ledger and his portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime.

I remember way back when Ledger was first announced as winning the role, and thinking “Huh?”  I respected the kid as an actor; I saw Brokeback Mountain and thought he made that movie worthwhile.  But did I see him as the Joker?  Honestly no, not at all.  I missed the ‘prologue’ when it played in front of I Am Legend a couple Christmases ago, so I didn’t get a firsthand taste of the good buzz he started to recieve from that.  When the first pictures leaked as part of the online campaign (for my money the greatest viral campaign tied to a movie, ever, and it’s not even close), I thought it was interesting but it still gave no clue as to how he would play the Joker.

A lot of the Joker is in the script written by the Nolan Brothers, a lot of the Joker is in the great theme created by Hans Zimmer and company, but let me give credit where credit is due and say Heath Ledger makes The Dark Knight a must see movie.  As much as I love everyone else associated with this project, it really is that simple.  As he says in his first meeting with the mob, this Joker is not crazy.  It reminds me of something I picked up on as a wrestling fan as a kid; the bad guy isn’t supposed to think he’ s ‘bad’, he just has a different point of view.  And the great bad guys can justify their point of view to the point you know where they’re coming from even if you don’t agree with it.  The difference between cartoon bad guys (Darth Vader, Jack Nicholson’s Joker), and the bad guys who truly earn anti-hero status (Tony Soprano, even ‘the Batman’ himself in Gotham City). 

Back to Heath; when I first heard talk that he might get love from the Academy, I was very wait and see.  I don’t know if his death has helped or hurt his case (I don’t think it hurt the box office, I’ll put that out there.)  I definitely feel it’s the most memorable performance I’ve seen this year, outside of my own bias toward this character.  I just glanced at his competition at the Globes (Cruise, Downey Jr., Fiennes, Hoffman) and think he’s definitely got a shot to win.  As a Batman fan, I’m so happy with the film and the direction the franchise is going that I’m not going to lose sleep one way or another whether Heath wins a Globe or an Oscar. 

But since the point of this column is if I think he should win, then my answer is hell yes!!!

 

Thank You Mr. Nolan

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Dear Chris,

In my moviegoing experience, I’ve only been brought to tears twice.  The first time was when Kunta Kinte refused to answer to Toby, which may be the greatest scene in Roots.  The other time was about 10 minutes into Batman and Robin, when the heroes started ice skating around the frozen over Gotham Museum.

In retrospect, I knew of your work years before I had any idea who you were.  My fellow film geeks were raving about this movie where the story was told backwards.  When I finally saw Momento for myself (and enjoyed it), I remember thinking “How come it took so long for somebody to do that?”

As a well-known Pacino-phile, I was a little relieved when I heard ‘the guy from Momento was directing his new film.  If Insomnia was just another paycheck for him, you got him to earn that paycheck my friend.

When Warner Brothers decided to let you remove the franchise, I was admittedly skeptical.  I knew you were a good director, but this is the Batman…

Even before Schumacher’s take, the Batman has always been on my short list of ‘must do’ projects.  He’s a loner, he’s a good guy who could care less about popularity, he’s completely mortal and has to rely on his intelligence and his training to survive.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, a guy who dresses up like a bat clearly has issues.  I’m just saying…

To be fair, I can’t say Batman Begins is the best film I’ve ever seen.  What I can say is that there’s been no movie since that’s had me jumping around like a 10 year old boy when I left the theater.  You sir, rescued my favorite fictional character, and portrayed him the way many Batman fans of my generation know him best.

(As an aside, let me also shout out Christian Bale, who’s still probably a little underrated in his portrayal of Bruce Wayne/Batman.  But it’s the nature of the character in a lot of ways; the villains are much more interesting than the hero.)

When I heard you were making a sequel, I was giddy.  When I heard the title would be The Dark Knight, I was ecstatic.

Then people started saying Heath Ledger was so good, he should win an Oscar.  I started to get a little apprehensive.  Then I started hearing people say, it’s one of the best movies of the year, it’s one of the best crime dramas ever!  At that point, even I had to say to myself, “Why don’t we keep it in our pants until the film comes out at least?”

It’s still hard to believe I’m saying this, but I thought a lot of the hype was right.  As a consolation, let me add that you also made the best Batman film of all time - by far.  The Dark Knight is so good, I agree with many hardcore fans and say you really don’t have to do another Batman film.  There’s a redemption story to be told, but I don’t know how you can top yourself.  If you have one more in you, great.  But let me add my voice to the chorus that says, “Thank you for showing the humanity of the most human of all superheroes.”

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