Tag Archive: christopher nolan


 

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Warner Brothers, you sneaky studio…

When the world is more in a mood for a silly Dark Knight, we get the silliest of them all.  ‘Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders’ is the latest animated film from WB Animation, and it’s a homerun (for what it is).

Reuniting Adam West and Burt Ward as the Dynamic Duo who was the introduction to Batman for most kids, this film is silly and absurd in all the ways the 1966 TV show was.  Only Julie Newmar is still living on the villain side, and she reprises Catwoman along with three great sound alikes for Penguin, Joker, and the Riddler.  The plot is ridiculous, and only makes less sense as the movie goes, but so what?  Animation is the reason the original actors can reprise these characters, and animation opens the door for a TON of in jokes for the adults, that cover everything from the homoerotic nature of a grown man living with a teenage boy, to Frank Miller to the Tim Burton films to the Chris Nolan films.

Is this an all time classic?  Nahhh.  But you want a version of Batman you can watch with your youngest with no worries?  Here you go.

Must see for Batman completionists.

 

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Maybe my most memorable L.A. birthday was at Kate Mandellini’s. Probably would have been the regular spot if it still existed.

Anyway, pretty much everyone I know was pissed we didn’t get to be in attendance at the ‘Heat’ screening they had at the Academy.  DeNiro, Pacino, Michael Mann, with a Q&A moderated by Christopher Nolan.

Good Lord…

The Academy was nice enough to post a few clips for us.  Here’s one about the most iconic scene.  I thought what they said about rehearsing was really interesting too.

Enjoy!

 

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George Miller (again!) to the action film genre and its audience:

Just my two cents, but ‘Fury Road’ is the best kick in the ass to the genre since the first ‘Bourne’ film (i.e., ‘the rest of you have gotten lazy and keep falling on the same cliches, this is how you keep the audience fired up and engaged for 2 hours.)

I’ve been down for Tom Hardy going back to ‘Warrior’ at least.  Hooking up with the genius Christopher Nolan for ‘Inception’, and bringing cinematic redemption to Bane certainly won a lifetime of respect with yours truly. Getting to play Mad Max as an internally tormented survivor who rarely speaks…my actor envy/film geek admiration was in the red for the whole movie.  He’s earned this headlining spot.

Speaking of earning the right to be here, Charlize Theron.  Been around for a minute and a half, forever pretty enough to collect them checks playing ‘The Girlfriend/Wife’ to the main character of whatever you got.  The title of this film got it financed and put asses in the seat, but without question this is her (character’s) movie.  Beyond empathy, I don’t know if it’s my place to go too deep into the feminism angle I’ve heard thrown around a lot with this film. But it was not lost on me that the weakest character in the film is the bride who had no sense of self without her man.

There’s still so much I haven’t even covered.  That cinematography and those images!  The overall style in general!  That MF just posted up to play rock guitar during the chase scenes!  Zoe Bella Kravitz!  (Oh yes, I saw you young lady.  Your mama still fine?  I’m just teasing, but next time you go by the house, tell her Mister Aziz said hello.)

As much as it’s my natural instinct to rebel when ‘everybody’ likes something, in this case everybody was right.

Go see ‘Fury Road.’  If you’ve seen it, go see it again.

‘Interstellar’

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So what does the genius Christopher Nolan do with his ‘blank check’?  He makes a film that’s not quite on the level of 2001: A Space Odyssey. But honestly, what is?

Interstellar is epic and ambitious and unique (especially in the current era of filmmaking).  The McConnaisance is the headliner of this ‘near future’ tale of a pilot called back into service when the future of the human race is in question (no pressure).  A lot of science is dropped to explain the plot, all supposedly based on real scientific theories (I’m an artist, like most of you, I have to trust what I’m hearing as far as that’s concerned.)

So my nitpicks with the movie aren’t with the science that I can’t refute.  It’s with the genre jumps.  For the most part, this is a science fiction film, but there are turns where it becomes a family film, and in the last act, it becomes an action movie for 20 minutes or so (with a nice uncredited cameo from one of my favorite movie stars).  The tone shifts work most of the time, but not all of the time.

But with an ensemble including Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, David Oyelowo, Casey Affleck, and Michael Caine, Nolan fanboys will not be disappointed.  Definitely worth seeing (on the big screen if you can still catch it).

‘Gotham’

 

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So here’s the disclaimer, since I haven’t said this publicly in a couple years: whatever DC and/or Warner Brothers do now, I’m OK with it.  The genius Christopher Nolan has already told my story better than I could have possibly imagined.  Now, if I see something that I consider a Schumachery of my franchise, I’ll still call out the necessary parties.  But all Bat related stories now, no expectations.  Just enjoying them for what they are.

Which brings us to the series premiere of ‘Gotham’.  Not much to be spoiled for guys like me (we’ll get to that), but the general conceit here for those that don’t know is telling the origin story from the point of view of Jim Gordon (played by Ben Mckenzie of Southland fame, one of several good casting choices).

So naturally, the story begins where it has to, with the murders of Thomas and Martha Aziz Wayne.  I was given a heads up there were a ton of easter eggs and twists the TV show would take with the core mythology.  Again, I accept this.  But still, from a storytelling point of view, I’m expecting this has at least a 13 episode arc, and they threw a LOT of ‘wink winks’ at the hardcore fans for one episode, pilot or not.  Some of them were really cool (hey, there’s fine ass Renee Montoya; oh, they’re setting THAT up too? Nice!). Some of them felt like ‘I know there’s going to be a ‘villain of the week’, but that could have been anybody and not the father of a future well known Bat Villain. I was really 50/50 on all the nods early on, to the point of distraction: Alfred sounding like he stepped out of a Guy Ritchie film? Meh. The nameless stand up comedian with no self confidence? You know that very well might become…  And on and on.  I’m half surprised we didn’t somehow get roped into a trip to Wayne Enterprises to meet a young Lucius Fox working in that lab.

Wait, no! I take that back!  That part is important down the line, you have to get that casting right.  Has to be a brother old enough to be believable as a friend of Thomas Wayne, but ALSO intellectual and with the gravitas to ALSO be believable as a young Morgan Freeman.  Who could play that?

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(coughing back a smile as I find my notes…)  Where was I?  Oh yes…

Once the pilot settled down in the second half hour and stopped ‘over-introducing’ everybody, THEN it got going.  The relationship between Gordon and Harvey Bullock (Donald Logue here) is always great in the comics, and it looks like it’s going to provide the tension every week here.  And my affection for alumni of the Wire aside, John Doman is already the PERFECT television version of Carmine Falcone.  My sucking up aside, the casting is already off to a great start.

So what’s the official Prince of Gotham opinion?  For the pilot on its own?  I’ll give it a B minus.  Could have been better but not a Schumachery.

Does the Prince of Gotham believe you should give Gotham a chance to see what it grows into?

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Alright, it’s late Sunday night/Monday morning when this goes out, so most of you who were interested has seen The Dark Knight Rises at least once right?  Good!  If you haven’t seen it, leave now.  Friday morning I gave my midnight screening, top level, not ruining anything for any of my friends review, if you’re still reading I’m assuming you’ve seen it so this time around I’ll go into detail about exactly what I liked and didn’t care for (in no particular order…)

  • MICHAEL CAINE!!!!  You only had five or six scenes, but you put on the Daddy pants didn’t you?  A lot of it was how Alfred was written this time around, but you put on the acting boots and you had me (most of us actually) feeling it when you’re crying at Bruce Wayne’s grave.  Salute, sir!
  • Marion Cotillard: Professionally it’s certainly an asset, but between this and Inception, you might want to tell Nolan no next time he says he has a part for you.  Unless you’re not acting in these films, and you really are ‘the beautiful woman who looks like she will cut up every suit in your closet if you forget her birthday.’  If that’s who you really are, let me just go on record and say you’re my favorite part of both movies! (Please don’t hunt me down and stab me in my sleep.)
  • Knightfall is my all time favorite Batman story by far (and the Batman film I always wanted to make growing up).  So even though he again ended up being the ‘muscle’ for a femme fatale villain, I was overwhelmingly happy with the redemption of Bane as a Batman film villain.  In the end though…the sound mix still didn’t come out perfect did it?  There were still a few times where I wanted someone to say, ‘Hey Bane, you mind saying that one more time?’
  • While I’m in the fanboy bitching mood, I was cool with using the Tim Drake, excuse me, ‘John Blake’ version of Robin that White Malik played (that’s my crews nickname for Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  Another time I’ll go into that nickname.)  But his explanation for figuring out Batman didn’t jibe for me, (paraphrasing…)

Robin: ‘I’m an orphan too so I know how you put on a ‘mask’ to hide your pain. You’re Batman.
What Bruce Should Have Said: Um, yeah I hide my pain because my parents were murdered in front of me.  Get out.

On the other hand, if Robin would have said…

Robin: “I became a cop because of the Batman.  I know how you and the Commissioner took down the mob by following their money.  So I used the same logic.  All the fake Batmans had their guns, but how does the real Batman have access to a military grade car like the Tumbler?  How does he have the means to go to Hong Kong off anyone’s radar and bring back a key witness?  Maybe if the Batman was really a billionaire heir to the biggest industrial company in the city?

Bruce: Get out.

I rest my case.

  • In terms of my earlier comment about too much exposition in the first act (I won’t say I originated this comment but it’s true), it REALLY makes you love Heath Ledger’s Joker again right?  Where did he come from? ‘No name, no matches on prints…nothing in his pockets but knives and lint.‘  Why is he so destructive?  “I’m like a dog chasing cars…I just DO things”   Obviously you can’t beat the chaos/anarchy theme into the ground too hard, but that Joker was iconic.
  • Fanboy nitpicking aside, the ending gets better the more I think about it.  Again, I’m not the first to say this but I agree 100%: in comic book/cartoon form, the story never ‘ends’, the Batman never ages, and his mission goes on for eternity.  In a ‘realistic’ story though, the Prince of Gotham could only be the Batman for a limited time physically (like a professional athlete’s career at best), and if he somehow survived being the Batman…hopefully he would eventually try to have the normal life that his parents, Alfred, even Rachel all wanted for him.  So sure it was a ‘Hollywood’ ending, but I think it was the right way to end the trilogy.

My generation’s Batman is complete.  Thank you Mr. Nolan.

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: Arkham City

 

When I officially retire from my full geekdom in around 250 plus days, I’ll be able to say I saw a trilogy of great films (I hope) and 2 great video games all built around my favorite fictional character.  I finished the story mode of Batman: Arkham City tonight, somewhat shocked at how dark it was (which is saying something), but ultimately satisfied that ‘the Dark Knight’ has been given the best possible treatment in both cinematic and video game form.

Arkham City is the sequel to the immensely popular Batman: Arkham Asylum game of a couple years back that saw Batman trapped in the looney bin where most of his rogues gallery were kept.  The sequel builds on the story and structure in the best possible ways, expanding on the events of that game, but not being so tied into that game’s story that someone can’t just pick up the new one to see what the fuss is all about.

I don’t know how official it is but I’ve heard repeatedly that this was Mark Hamill’s swan song in voicing the Joker.  Nothing will ever replace the role he will always be best known for (which you know even if you don’t immediately realize it), but to have two iconic characters to your name in one career is something he should be extremely proud of.  Taking my personal bias aside, everyone involved in making and promoting this game should get a pat on the back.  The story is interesting enough to play through to the end, and there are more than enough ‘side missions and goodies’ to demand replays for those who have the time and the patience.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but to my people at Warners, you may need to go with one of the lighter versions of Batman after Nolan’s film.  There’s only so much Dark Knight even the Prince of Gotham can take.

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).

Oscar Preview 2011 Part III

 

Best Picture

Personal Favorite:  You know something?  For all the crying about the lack of creativity in Hollywood, I looked at the list of nominees and can say I really enjoyed half of the films and really liked most of the rest.  I’m a Nolan fanboy so I have to standup for Inception, but…

If you argued Toy Story 3 was one of the few ‘third films’ that lived up to the standard of the first two films in the series?  I wouldn’t disagree.

If you argued Black Swan in its own way was more visual and original than Inception, I wouldn’t hold it against you.

If you argued The Social Network was ‘the film we’ll look back on as the film that defined where we were as a culture in 2010’, I don’t think anyone could argue that.

I could keep going but I think you get my point.

Who Should Win:  Same argument.  True Grit, The Kids are All Right, The King’s Speech, and The Fighter all stand out as films that ‘feel’ like Oscar films because of who’s in front of or behind the camera (or both). In my opinion the film that nails every major element the best (cinematography, writing, direction, action, subject mattter, design) is The King’s Speech. Just my opinion.

Who Will Win: The King’s Speech because of the argument I made in the previous paragraph.

One last pre-show note: I talked to Mr. Thomas and we plan to ‘liveblog’ the Oscars again this year to keep the ‘ArtFradieu’ tradition alive (for those of you who go WAY back) with us.  I think I’m tech savvy enough to pull this off, so for those of you who like (relatively) unfiltered comedy by two black film geeks during the show, check back here during the show Sunday night.

Until then…