Batman Returns

33 years after being dumped into the sewers as a baby by his horrified parents, Oswald Cobblepot (Danny DeVito), a disfigured, disgusting man, wants to surface and claim his rights as a human. Meanwhile, shy secretary Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer) works for business tycoon Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), who constantly belittles her. When she discovers his plans for a power station will actually drain and store Gotham’s surplus energy, he tries to kill her but fails, causing her to seek revenge. Also, there’s a bloke going around dressed as a bat, but clearly, he’s not as important.
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Batman

Leading up to Gotham City’s bicentennial celebrations, the mayor, the police and the district attorney are all keen on increasing the police presence to stamp out the city’s rampant crime. Mob boss Grissom (Jack Palance) is not keen on this, but even less keen on his second-in-command, Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson). He sets Napier up to take the fall on a job, but doesn’t expect the city’s masked vigilante, Batman (Michael Keaton), to step in and, in the process of trying to apprehend Napier, accidentally drops him into a vat of acid. The acid dyes Napier’s skin white and his hair green, and a facial injury prior to the fall renders him with a permanent demonic grin, Thus, the Joker is born.
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My Week in Movies, 2015 Week 17

Normally I do most of my movie watching at weekends. What with work and other commitments, weekdays tend to have more of a focus on TV, which this week meant finishing off Season 1 of True Detective and catching up with the first two episodes of Season 5 of Game of Thrones, all of which was awesome. Then the weekend rolled around, and this happened:
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Yep, we got a puppy. This is Malakili Urak-Hai Robocop Patroni Hagrid Yoda Cluitt-Green, or M.U.R.P.H.Y. for short, a two month old labradoodle, and as such I didn’t watch a great deal of movies this week and, if the past weekend is anything to go by, never will ever again. But he’s all kinds of adorable (you should watch him hunting a tennis ball), so I can’t stay mad at him, regardless of how often he pees in the hall. Anyway, here’s what I watched this week: Continue reading

Top 10… Movie Franchises

I’ve recently gone on record about two movie franchises, Star Trek and The Fast & The Furious, one of which I greatly preferred to the other. This got me thinking, and was the inspiration for this week’s list, my Top 10 Movie Franchises. Now, as always I’ve set myself some limitations. Firstly, I must have seen every film within the franchise. This immediately rules out the likes of Die Hard (haven’t seen number 5), Alien/Predator (haven’t seen Predator 2, can’t remember Alien 3 or Resurrection), Bourne (Legacy), Hannibal (Rising) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (remake and New Nightmare). I also didn’t include the looser franchises that simply take place in the same universe, for example the Avengers film, Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse, George Romero’s Blank of the Dead series or the Muppets films. I also took into account every film within each franchise, so just because a film happened to feature some true classics, if there were some stinkers in there too then that didn’t help its case for inclusion. The franchise also had to have a minimum of four films, as I’ve made a list of my top trilogies before. So, without further ado, here’s my top 10 movie franchises:

Honourable Mentions
Final-Destination-5There’s a lot of franchises out there! Seriously, there’s tons, more than I’d heard of, and I was shocked to discover some of the more longer-lasting movie sagas. Did you know there’s 30 Django films? I knew there were a lot of Carry Ons, but I didn’t think it was as many as 31, which is also the same number of Barbie films in existence (I’m guessing this doesn’t include Hotel Terminus). I’m most blown away, however, by the fact that there’s a Chinese series known as Wong Fei Hung, which includes a staggering 89 movies. 89! That, my friends, is insane. Anyway, I’ve barely seen any of these films (Django Unchained, Carry On Doctor) so obviously these can’t be in my Top 10.
No, this week’s two honourable mentions are the Final Destination franchise, and Police Academy. They beat out stiff competition from the likes of Shrek, Home Alone, Pirates of the Caribbean, Saw and the National Lampoon’s Vacation series, but if I had to pick my favourites then these two are them. Final Destination is one of the few horror series I pay much attention too – I’ve only seen the original Halloween, and have yet to see any Friday the 13th films – and I think this is due to the initially original concept of people cheating death, and being hunted down one by one to fix reality. It’s such a brilliant idea, and it means there’s no iconic killer who’ll end up as a parody of himself by the fifth film. Part four is easily the worst in the series – the premonitions don’t make sense and there’s some truly terrible CGI – but all the rest are at least decent, with number 2 being my personal favourite. I had a screenshot from the death of Rory as my background for a little while after seeing that film.
Police-Academy-police-academy-27137923-1920-1080Police Academy is an entirely different yet still occasionally just as ridiculous franchise, following the antics of a police training school that’s just dropped any requirements for entrants, meaning anyone of any gender, race, weight and ability can sign up and be trained. Yes, the sequels got a bit terrible after Steve Guttenberg dropped out, and the less said about Mission to Moscow the better, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had with the earlier films, the first one is a true 80s classic.
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Top 10… Movie Superheroes

This week saw the drop of the latest episode of the Lambcast, on which the topic of discussion was Iron Man 3. Not only did I appear on this episode (something I’ve been making a bit of a habit of lately), but I only went and hosted it too! Apparently it didn’t go too badly, so I urge you all to listen to it, but only after going to see the film (which is pretty damn good), as Dylan, Lindsay, Bubbawheat and I got into some fairly heavy spoiler territory. Anyway, as I’ve been doing recently, I’ve tied this week’s Top 10 into the theme of the podcast (as will also be the case for the next two weeks, anticipation-lovers), and this week that means counting down my list of Top 10 Movie Superheroes. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean my favourite superhero movies, although in some respects they do pair up. No, this is more a list of the heroes themselves. I’ve tried to take into account if the character has been played by more than one person, although on occasion this hasn’t always worked in the character’s favour. Also, this is entirely based upon the character’s depiction in cinema, mainly because I’ve never read a comic book (the closest I’ve come are graphic novels Sin City, Preacher and Watchmen), and I’ve done my best to block out every Saturday morning cartoon I ever saw in the otherwise culturally empty void of my so-called childhood. I’ve tried to steer clear of sidekicks too, that’s a whole different list, as is super-villains.

Honourable Mentions:

Thor-007I think the position that’s hardest for me to decide upon each week is the Honourable Mentions. There are generally an awful lot of viable entrants, and this week is no exception, and as such I feel the need to offer the position to be shared once again. This week the honours go to Thor, a surprisingly funny chap (“How dare you attack the son of Odin!”), Hellboy, Big Daddy and, on occasion, Spider-Man. I was tempted to include the Human Torch too, because Chris Evans does a good job with him, but he’s just such a dickish character that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Continue reading

The Dark Knight

What can I say about the Dark Knight that a thousand others before me haven’t? Of all modern films, this seems to be the one pored over most closely and often, heralded as the saviour of the summer blockbuster, superhero movie and crime thriller, all rolled up in the tightest of scripts. So, to take a fresh perspective, I sought out some people who didn’t like the film (thank the lord for the Internet, it makes people who don’t like something so easy to find) and found myself furious after reading just one and a half 1/10 reviews on IMDb. The sheer level of nitpicking and miniscule plot-hole unravelling proves just how far people are willing to go to disagree with the masses and stand out from the crowd, even when the crowd is so undeniably correct.
Not that this is a perfect film. There are flaws, including the Joker’s plan being at times a tad too pre-emptive, some ominous camera angles and music cues hinting unsubtly a character’s true motives earlier than should have been done, and the bit with the cellphones, which is a bit silly, but is that really enough to warrant a 1-star rating? The fact that these reviewers (I won’t give them the satisfaction of names or links, only seek them out to feel the rage bubble inside you) fail to note even one positive point in a movie overflowing with brilliance negates any opinion they deem worthy of sharing. I personally find it impossible to find nothing good in a movie – The Adventures of Pluto Nash is an abomination unto film, yet Randy Quaid is a delight as Nash’s robotic assistant; Big Trouble in Little China is easily one of the worst films I’ve reviewed from the list so far, but it has imaginative (if insane) monsters and mythology, some dialogue that surpasses cheesy to being inspired, and features Kim Cattrall back when she was attractive. Therefore, with such damning reviews as these ‘people’ have offered, they are in fact unwittingly proving how good a film it is.
Leaping from the tantalising springboard ending of BatmanBegins – Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon showing Batman a playing card left as the mark of a new criminal, calling himself The Joker, we dive headlong into a wonderfully executed bank heist, as six masked goons effortlessly separate mob money from the vaults it was stored in. Director Chris Nolan has made no secret that Heat, Michael Mann’s superb DeNiro/Pacino cat and mouse crime epic, was a huge influence on the Dark Knight, and it shows, from a William Fichtner cameo to a central meeting of the hero and villain, even mentioning a cup of coffee.
Nolan wisely improved upon some mild mis-steps made in Batman Begins here, replacing Katie Holmes with Maggie Gyllenhall as love interest Rachel Dawes, giving Batman’s mask a cowl so he can turn his head, and giving Batman himself (Christian Bale, good but no Adam West) a little less screen time, allowing alter ego Bruce Wayne and his various accomplices and nemeses some breathing room. Aaron Eckhart is spot-on as Harvey Dent, Gotham’s shining hope against the mob, and Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine remain on hand to add a touch of old school class and grandeur as Wayne’s dependable CEO nad curmudgeonly butler/moral compass, but justifiably most of the praise has been directed at the late Heath Ledger’s Joker. A creation for the ages, his layered performance of a truly maniacal genius reveals more with each viewing, and it is unfortunate that the role showcased the true acting abilities of a man previously thought of merely as a rom-com heartthrob only after he had passed. Plus, it gave us all another Hallowe’en costume to use.
Unusually for Nolan, the film is actually quite funny. It’s not exactly laugh-a-minute (there’s certainly less than 152 jokes here), the script is still a lot more humorous than you might remember. There’s also absolutely no filler, with every strand being integral to the plot; a true achievement when you consider just how engaging the story is, even when new elements are being added right up until the last few scenes.
As always with Nolan’s films, there’s a couple of cinematography moments that I’d have tried differently (see Inception), most notably the scene where the Joker leaves a hospital, which could have looked truly tremendous had it been one unbroken shot, without needlessly cutting away to some pedestrians nearby, but this is a small matter that is more of a personal niggle than a criticism.
Anyway, for those wondering if they should watch the film again before the upcoming trilogy closer The Dark Knight Risesthis summer, the answer is a resounding yes. Even if you don’t intend to see part 3 (I assume you’re planning on gouging out your own eyeballs, just in case it isn’t any good, there’s no other reason not to see it) you should watch The Dark Knight again, just because it’s probably the best film to have been released in the last 5 years, if not more.
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Batman Begins

As the title suggests, this predominantly covers Batman’s origin story, from the death of his parents after he becomes scared at the theatre, through his training by Liam Neeson’s Ducard, his development of a crime-fighting persona and his confrontation with his former mentor in a city ridden with toxin-crazed criminals and madmen. This is arguably the most realistic, or at least vaguely plausible comic book movie ever made, with the only real superpowers on display being a gas that makes people insane and a ridiculously vast fortune to funs Bruce Wayne’s double lifestyle. Granted, the secret passage in Wayne Manor is operated by hitting a coded sequence of piano keys, but this can be forgiven, and is at least a variation from the classic sliding of a secret book on a shelf.
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