Sean and I review Atomic Blonde
Sean and I review Atomic Blonde
In which your humble narrator live-streamed a movie review for Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver.Continue Reading...
On Tuesday night I had an opportunity to see a preview screening of the latest addition to the Batman franchise, Batman Begins. I will start by saying two things: it was very good and there is hope for this franchise yet.
Batman, created by Bob Kane in the 1940s for DC Comics, featured one of the first costumed crime fighters without super powers. “Traumatised by witnessing the murder of his parents, the young Bruce Wayne vows to avenge their deaths by spending the rest of his life bringing criminals to justice in his home of Gotham. He uses his vast fortune to study criminology, train his body and mind to perfection and assemble a batcave full of vehicles and gadgets,” summarised the BBC in an obituary of Kane, who died in 1998.
The movie is the fifth big-screen adaptation of the comic book franchise.
The first one, released in 1989, was directed by Tim Burton and featured Michael Keaton as the Batman and an over-the-top Jack Nicholson as Batman`s long time nemesis, the Joker. Burton also directed the sequel, which didn`t quite hit the mark.
There were then two incredibly bad Joel Schumacher-helmed transgressions, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, which turned the franchise into a gaudy, neon-lit, homoerotic romp. The major draw for fans of the comics has always been the darkness of the character and the struggle to balance the character of the billionaire playboy by day and masked crime fighter by night. The 60s TV series and previous three films seemed to miss that mark with oversimplification, garish colours and ham-fisted direction and acting. There seemed to be a belief that because the source material was a comic the characters were two-dimensional.
However, Chris Nolan, director of the incredibly strange thriller Memento, has restored the good name of the Batman. Batman Begins is incredibly dark and layered, it strains at its PG-13 rating and, thankfully, features a nipple-less Batsuit.
Batman Begins follows the path of a young multi-billionaire orphan, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), seeking the tools to avenge his parents` murder and bring justice to the streets of Gotham. The movie features an all-star cast, including Oscar winners Michael Caine as Wayne`s butler, Alfred; Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, the inventor of many of the Bat`s toys; as well as Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard, Wayne`s trainer; Gary Oldman as Sgt Jim Gordon; Rutger Hauer; Tom Wilkinson; and Katie Holmes. Relative newcomer Cillian Murphy, best know for his role in 28 Days Later, plays Dr
Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow, Batman`s first costumed adversary.
One of the things I really enjoyed about this movie was how dark it was. Christian Bale has made a fine living playing dark and troubled characters and doesn`t slouch playing the Bat. Unlike all the other films in the series, there is no campiness, intentional or not. All the major characters get off a couple of truly funny one-liners but Nolan has helmed a film more reminiscent of Frank Miller`s Batman: Year One than DC comics` monthly titles.
This movie isn`t so much about the Bat`s adversaries but how the mythos was created and the development of the toys that the Batman has been know for, including the Batmobile and the Batsuit. It isn`t high art but it is an entertaining way to spend an afternoon and gives fan boys like myself hope for the future of the franchise-especially since there is word that most of the principles have signed on for a three-picture deal, making the sequels inevitable.
I thought I would stay up after I got home from the midnight showing to write my review while it was fresh in my mind, but then I thought I wasn`t going to say anything new and if the turnout last night at the movie theatre was any indication, there were more fervent worshippers at the altar of the force than I. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the sixth film in George Lucas` epic space opera; Star Wars, however chronologically it precedes the original Star Wars movie; now named Episode IV: A New Hope; released in 1977. Ep. III: ROTS, chronicles the fall of the Jedi Knights and the rise of the Galactic Empire and the consummate villain, Darth Vader.
Let`s get this clear, I did enjoy the movie, but i had to make certain allowances; Hayden Christensen still can`t act his way through a moist towelette, Natalie Portman wasted in ugly costumes and George Lucas` inability to create a realistic love interest.
Christensen, first introduced to audiences in the vomit inducing Episode II, has churned out sickeningly mediocre performances over the course of two movies, leaving you wishing that he`d become Vader already instead of being such a whiney brat.
The beautiful and talented, Natalie Portman is also wasted in a series of progressively uglier costume and hair changes over the course of two movies, you`re almost grateful that she dies at the end of this movie and doesn`t pass on her horrid fashion sense to her daughter Princess Leia, well except for really bad `bun hair`. George Lucas seems incapable of writing of directing a love scene without it having it feel puerile and juvenile, makes you wonder how this man reproduced, you would think a man capable of imagining a universe full of such fantastic characters could draw on some real life inspiration that would make love between Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Padmé (Natalie Portman) seem less like a cheesy Barbara Cartland romance or a douche commercial.
Episode III was dark and from the previews it looked as if Lucas had finally channelled his inner Kershner; Irvin Kershner was responsible one of the only two movies in the series not directed by Lucas and believe to be the best film of the series; Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Lucas did manage to channel some Kershner but saddled it with all of his baggage. The movie was a visual effects spectacular with all manner of space craft, battles in space and a completely CG villain; General Grievous. Because it was so dark and carries a PG-13 rating, the movie was not overly burdened with the need to have something cute for the kiddies, although there were only two scenes that I think would be perturbing to small children. I think you`d have more trouble having them keeping still for the two hour and twenty six minute run time and some of the seizure inducing fight sequences.
I`m going back at some point not because I feel a continued need to line LucasFilms` pockets but having vetted it for content for my nine-year old audience, I need to accompany him. If you haven`t seen it and you`re not a Star Wars fan, you can wait for cable or DVD and if you are a fan, you can probably wait as well. It doesn`t disappoint but not as much as it doesn`t overwhelm.
edit: i got a request to fill out my initial post and submit it as a review, damned editors.
On Tuesday night we were fortunate enough to catch a preview screening of the Hitch Hiker`s Guide to the Galaxy. There are not enough words for me to express how pleased I am with this movie. After many false starts, the big budget, Hollywood version is finally here and it doesn`t seem any worse for wear, but it is a mostly British production from a screenplay started by the late Douglas Adams.
As with all other versions of HHGTG; radio play, BBC mini series, book; a consistent idiosyncrasy is a the extension of story lines that for that particular medium. The movie is no different and expands Arthur`s love of Trillian, as well as the development of the Humma Kavula storyline.
The cast is amazing and features voice talents of Alan Rickman as Marvin the Paranoid Android, Helen Mirren as Deep Thought and Stephen Fry as the Guide. Rapper turned actor Mos Def stars as Ford Prefect, Sam Rockwell; in another over the top performance; as President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox and British character actor, Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent. The actual Guide entries; developed British animation firm Shynola; stole the show with every appearance, if you`re one of those people who leaves immediately as the credits start to roll, i suggest you stick around, there`s one last Guide entry as the credits roll. Die hard HHGTG fans will be amused by a couple of special asides, including the BBC mini series` Marvin, as well as the Douglas Adams planet from Starship Titanic game.
The movie is CGI intensive but not to the point of abuse and my favourite scene is the Heart of Gold; the ship our erstwhile heroes end up on; going through infinite probabilities to arrive at a destination, including one probability where the entire ship and crew are turned into yarn. The movie is billed as a comedy but there are a lot of touching moments, that are genuine and uncontrived. One of the things that makes this movie so enjoyable is an almost childlike innocence and joy that seemed to characterise Douglas Adams. This is helped by an almost completely British production that understand how to be funny without resorting to blatant stupidity as evidenced by the So Long and Thanks for all the Fish song over the opening credits.
At the end of of the film as the Heart of Gold phases through infinite probabilities, there is a brief flash of Adams` face before the credits start rolling with the words `For Douglas`. This movie is a faithful interpretation of a beloved book and is sure to make long time fans happy and create a new generation of fans.
Remember to walk with your towels.