Batman ends (I finally saw The Dark Knight Rises)

When I wrote the last post about the new Spider-Man movie, it dawned on me that I forgot to mention that I saw the latest Batman movie like a week or two ago. Here are my thoughts…

Most people who give a shit about Batman have probably already seen The Dark Knight Rises. What can I say? I’m a slowpoke. Going to the multiplex often fills me with as much dread as getting up for work after a night at the bar. Now that we have Blu-Ray players and TVs that are actually capable of reproducing the deep blacks you get from a projected image, what’s the point, man? At home I don’t have to wear the cheap 3D glasses, the popcorn tastes better, and I can pause whenever I need to visit the bathroom or—and this is becoming a lot more frequent as I get older—when I need to take a nap.

I didn’t fall asleep once during The Dark Knight Rises. I’m not saying I expected to, but I had lowered my expectations enough not to be disappointed. I wasn’t expecting to be disappointed, either, but after seeing the second in Nolan’s trilogy, I knew there was no way to top it. Or equal it. I was right.

This is just the opinion of a guy you don’t know, which is a dime a dozen on the Internet, but as far as comic book movies go, I enjoyed Dredd more than Rises. I may have even enjoyed The Avengers more than this one. I don’t know. One thing I do know is I don’t regret that I watched it. Sometimes that’s the best you can get. People complain that movies suck today, but I counter with the argument that movies have always sucked, we just don’t remember them as much as the recent suck-fests…

Like Iron Man 2. But I digress because I find myself in the awkward position of wanting to see part three.

I have the feeling Nolan wasn’t ready to make the third film in the series. If it took him so many years to write Inception (didn’t he claim it was twelve?) I can see how one could be pressured into wrapping the series up.  I certainly wouldn’t envy anyone in that position. I’m just saying, if I had gotten the job to write the third film, I’d feel like I’d need several years to come up with something worthy of its predecessor. I mention all this because Nolan did a remarkable job considering. The dark forces behind the scenes probably kidnapped his wife and sent him a finger in the mail each week he didn’t turn in a script.
The Dark Knight Rises opens with an airborne heist. We’ve seen that a million times in the movies, including a few James Bond films. Other than the introduction of Bane, the film’s villain, there really isn’t much to see here. I mean, they’re not hijacking gold bars or nuclear launch codes or anything as tired as like that, but it just wasn’t all that exciting.

Cut to a charity event at Bruce Wayne’s manor. We learn it’s been eight years since the last film. Gotham is mostly crime-free thanks to the Harvey Dent Act, Commissioner Gordon comes this close to telling a crowd of people that Dent turned into a psychopath, and Bruce Wayne has become a reclusà la Howard Hughes. That night, Wayne catches a cat burglar (Anne Hathaway) stealing his mother’s pearls.

That’s where the movie lost me. Forget comparing Catwoman’s character to the context of the other films—in the context of this film, the character is too goofy, too Hollywood, and far too unbelievable. I’ve seen Schwarzenegger films with fewer one-liners. Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises is like the ewoks in Return of the Jedi. This piece just doesn’t fit here, not like this.

That’s my biggest complaint. My second biggest complaint is Wayne’s love interest in the film, Marion Cotillard, who you’ll remember from Inception. Movies need more class acts like Cotillard (she’s on the level of Johansson and Portman), but her character in this movie is pretty lifeless and dull. And then there’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I love this guy in most movies, but here he’s a little too predictable. We all knew it when we saw the trailer, so let’s not even pretend the following is a spoiler: He’s Robin.
Then there’s the lighthearted comedy relief. It’s not as bad as, say, Johnny Knoxville in any non-Jackass movie he’s ever been in, and it’s not even bad, really. It’s just not right for this film. I know Rises was actually intended to be lighter than the last film (alluding to Dent’s speech about it being darkest just before the dawn and, hey, whaddyaknow? this is the dawn!), but the second heist in this film, and the ensuing car chase, struck me as a little too routine. And the scenes where Batman and Catwoman fight side by side are way too reminiscent of Batman Returns. I really hate comparing Rises to the other films, but damn it, all of its action sequences would fit better in the previous Batman series.
My complaints are all out of the way… well, other than the choice of casting when it comes to Bruce Wayne’s doctor, who informs the vigilante he has no cartilage left in his knees. The moment you say “Hey, it’s that guy!” you get pulled out of the movie a little bit.

The rest of the movie is pretty good. Tom Hardy as Bane makes very interesting choices. His voice is just as jarring as Christian Bale’s voice was in the first film. I love villains as they make or break these kinds of movies more than any other ingredient. This is a good villain. Bane has the distinction of breaking Batman’s back in the comics so you know he’s a tough SOB. In this version, he’s downright menacing. Nothing like the cheap piece of shit he was in Batman & Robin… damn it, there I go making comparisons again.

About halfway through the movie, Nolan begins dropping hints to the conclusion. He wants us to know what happens in the end because there’s more to it than what you would expect. It’s vague, sure, and when I saw it it didn’t necessarily work for me. But thinking back on it… yeah, it works, I guess. It kind of grows on me the more I think about it. Let’s face it: as far as the third entries in trilogies go, Rises is among the best. That’s a rare honor even if the competition isn’t all that thick.
If you give a shit about Batman, and you should, go see it. Or wait for it on Blu-Ray. World won’t end if you wait, dude. 

Amazing Spider-Man

When I heard they were making another Spider-Man origin story I groaned. I’m just not into origin story movies. Or maybe we’re just getting too many of them at once, like vampire and zombie movies. I needed a breather. I don’t mind superhero films, I just don’t want to see these characters’ life stories repeated ad nauseam. These stories are pretty much our country’s mythology. Does anyone really not know where these characters came from? Anyone who doesn’t know by now won’t be found watching a movie like this anyway, so what’s the point?

And do we really need a complete reboot every ten years? They don’t even do it that often in comic books.

It looks so shitty, doesn’t it?!
So I had no desire to see The Amazing Spider-Man because A) Spider-Man 3 sucked the biggest balls ever B) it essentially told the same story as the 2002 version with Tobey Maguire, right? Well, I don’t want to say I was pleasantly surprised. That doesn’t even begin to describe what I felt. I was knocked out of my seat.
Here’s the deal: Mary Jane’s nowhere in this movie. Proper fans will know about Gwen Stacy, who was hastily squeezed into the last entry despite the fact the women in Parker’s life (Felicia Hardy’s Black Cat is my favorite, and I can only hope they introduce her properly someday) are kind of a big deal to the mythology. She’s Peter Parker’s first love and this time she’s played by Emma Stone, an actress I already admired, but she might be better than ever here.

Peter Parker is played by… I don’t know this guy’s name. I don’t feel like Googling it. It doesn’t matter because you’ve never heard of him anyway. That’s cool. I like fresh faces in big films. Sure, this movie plays it safe, but not nearly as safe as most of these flicks. Think about it: this is a billion dollar franchise and yet you’ve never seen the guy who plays the main character. How often does that happen?

Skipping past the origin, because you know it anyway: Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) is murdered by a street thug Parker should have stopped. Night after night, Parker patrols the dark alleys for his uncle’s killer. He decides to wear a costume inspired by a luchador after a lowlife warns him, “I know your face!” Oh, and Parker’s genius is on full display here: he rigs a pair of custom-made bracelets to spit webs from his wrists. All this stuff is purchased online, which really means the cops could have caught Parker early in the first act, but this is a fantasy movie. Just let it slide.
Let it slide because this is a good fantasy movie. Really good. This one’s better than any of the movies that tie into Avengers. Dare I say it? It’s better than The Avengers itself. Hell, I liked it better than Christopher Nolan’s latest Batman movie. (Crap, I forgot to even mention that… I saw that recently, too. I guess I should make a post about it.)
Anyway, this is that rare summer film that’s worth the ticket price. This is why I wade through action movies, most of which suck, time and time again. Movies like this recharge me, make me excited about movies the way I used to be when I was a kid. Just because it’s about a guy who dresses in spandex and fights crime at night doesn’t mean it has to be stupid.
Romance? Got it. Action? Plenty. A great bad guy? Well… two out of three isn’t bad. I wouldn’t go so far as to say there’s anything new in this movie, but the way it goes about it is magical. I’m a tough egg to crack, so if you get me absolutely believing the silly far-fetched shit in your movie (and this one has lots of it—which isn’t a critique) I’m all in. It’s as close to perfect as these movies get.
Catch it on DVD on November 9th. Tell me what you thought about it in the comments. 

"Atari Presents Mario Bros." (Comic book ad)

I found this while flipping through some old comics (Fantastic Four #273 in case you’re interested). That’s someone else’s Flickr scan, though. I didn’t feel like taking a picture of it myself.

Atari Presents Mario Brothers
What blows my mind is I had a million Atari 2600 cartridges, but not one of them was Mario Bros. I want to say I remember Mario Bros. on Atari, but I’m not sure I do. Check out this shitty commercial, which is only 23% as shitty as the movie version with Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper in it:

Two Hitchcock biopics for the price of… well, two

Two Hitchcock biopics are coming out, one for HBO and one for wide release in theaters. While HBO isn’t exactly known for lowering any bars in their productions, I’m more interested in the bigger film that stars Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock. (Although, I must say HBO has piqued my interest as well; casting Toby Jones and Sienna Miller as Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren is interesting if nothing else.)

I said recently I thought Scarlett Johansson was a class act, more so than most of today’s Hollywood stars. Seems the producers of Hitchcock thought so as well; she’ll be playing none other than Janet Leigh. In fact, with a cast that includes Helen Mirren, Toni Collete, and Jessica Biel appearing surprisingly well-cast as Vera Miles, the whole production is oozing with classy ladies bringing Hitchcock’s infamous obsession with blondes to life.

Many of the motifs and perhaps a few of the plot elements will overlap, but I’m probably going to watch both. HBO’s The Girl primarily focuses on Hitchcock and Hedren’s unhealthy relationship during The Birds while Hitchcock seems to be focused on the production of Psycho… and I would imagine Hitchcock’s unprofessional interest in his female leads in general.

Argo: the true story of how the CIA used science fiction as a cover

When it comes to rating films on my Netflix account, I don’t throw five stars out lightly. One of those rare movies was Gone Baby Gone, directed by Ben Affleck and based on the superb detective series by Dennis Lehane. Say what you will about Affleck’s acting, but as a director I consider him a master. Here’s the trailer for his latest film, Argo:

The movie will star Affleck himself, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, and Alan Arkin. Casts rarely get better than this. It opens this Friday.

So far it reminds me of a movie about a similar sting involving the FBI called The Last Shot.