Posts Tagged ‘Batman’

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50 Movies in 100 Days: Batman: Under the Red Hood

March 12, 2013

Batman: Under the Red Hood

Yes, I know that this is a cartoon, but I had to watch it, because it was a shorter film, and I like to nerd out from time to time.  It ended up being a good batman story, they didn’t hide what it was going to end up at all that much, but it was pretty entertaining.  And it is a pretty nice Batman story because unlike the live action Betman movies it didn’t seem to be the same thing pretty much over and over again and it didn’t have a nice little third act to wrap everything up in a stupid little bow.  Sorry, as you can tell, I wasn’t that huge a fan of The Dark Knight Rises, it was entertaining, but a bit long, this was more focused.

The story starts with a new villain coming into town, and he seems to be taking over the criminal world, but at the same time, he is taking a more violent approach to taking care of criminals.  But to Batman this new Red Hood seems familiar, and he becomes convinced that it is his supposed to be dead former helper Robin.  It opens up old wounds for Batman as he faces many of his old villains and he has to come through a lot of emotions to face off against the Red Hood.  I’ll leave it at that, but I was pleased with the storyline.

The voice talent for Marvel and DC animated movies is actually surprisingly good.  Jensen Ackles takes on Red Hood, he might be familiar to some as he’s one of the lead characters in Supernatural.  Neil Patrick Harris and John DiMaggio are also in this film.  Neil Patrick Harris obviously has a big name for himself from How I Met Your Mother and many other things.  John DiMaggio is from Futurama lending his voice talent that.

This film is pretty well put together and the voice talent is very solid as well.  For an animated film it isn’t too bad in terms of direction and in terms of feel.  It has that grittier side, in many ways thanks to the Red Hood.  With Batman stories I’ve said it’s really been about the villain, he has stronger villains, and they will often make up for some slight problems with Batman being a weaker main character, or maybe it is that he is overshadowed by the villains, but that works really well and I like it a lot.

Overall, I haven’t seen enough Batman animated films to know where to rank this, but it isn’t too bad.  It was more serious than some superhero animated films that I’ve seen.  It’s entertaining, but I will said, you probably need to be a bit of a nerd to watch and enjoy it.  But if you are, you’ll enjoy it and you’ll enjoy the villains and you’ll enjoy the whole story.

Entertainment Grade: B

Critical Grade; C+

Overall Grade B-

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The Dark Knight Rises

July 20, 2012

 

The Dark Knight Rises

This being Christopher  Nolan’s last Batman film, it ended up being more of a farewell tour, then a soundly put together movie, that relied more on bringing back everyone they could, then developing a well focused story.  He wanted to go out with something epic but didn’t have a strong enough bad guy to carry the film and while it has some of the same visual and scoring impact, there were lapses in sound editing that took the audience out of the film.  It doesn’t live up to the strength of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

The story, a convoluted one, is one that we’ve already seen before, in fact, it is basically the same as the first two.  Batman has a problem, he faces the problem, he fails, he gets broken, he comes back stronger, someone teaches him something to make him even stronger still, and he wins at the last minute.  This film basically followed the same plot line with the added bonus  of John Blake, another member of the police force who gets to work with Commissioner Gordon.  It also suffers from the extreme backstorying, not of the people who completely matter, but of Bruce Wayne from the previous movies.  Most people seeing this either won’t care that much about the back story or already know it, it was about 20 wasted minutes of flashbacks that weren’t needed which seriously hurt the pacing of the story.

The acting in this film is considerably weaker then any of the other films.  Bane, played by Tom Hardy, is extremely forgettable.  He is physically imposing muscle wise, but seems tiny on the screen, he doesn’t ever seem like someone who people should fear on the screen.  His voice also was very disconnected and poorly done (and mixed) from the rest of the film.  The first few scenes he is in, it seems more like a voice over then the actual character talking.  Marion Cotillard is also weak as Miranda/Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter.  Her romance with Bruce Wayne is very forced and very quickly done in the film, people complained about Jane Foster and Thor in Thor, this had about half the set-up that one did.  Then the “great” twist that she is evil gave us some of the most poorly delivered monologues in the film that were pretty well devoid the the emotion that you were hoping for, and illogically placed.  I realize it shouldn’t be compared to the Avengers or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but Joss Whedon does one thing very well, when something major is going on in a battle and someone dies, it isn’t focused on, here no one dies, but everything is separated greatly and needlessly.  The hero versus villain battle that we get between Bane and Batman is in a larger ongoing battle, but apparently all the police know not to even look at Bane and all of Bane’s minions know not to look at Batman.  This is normal for most movies, but in a film that is supposed to be tougher, more realistic, and grittier then your average superhero film, it fails.  Gary Oldman is done no services as Commissioner Gordon, all the previous work developing his character is swiftly undone in this film, wasting Oldman’s talents as he becomes a device to move a plot forward, not an actual character.  Christian Bale is also a disappointment in the film, but that is kind of expected, his forced gravelly Batman voice works about as well as Clark Kent putting on glasses so people don’t know he’s Superman, except with this we have to listen to it the whole time, which becomes very old quickly and Bale becomes more of a caricature then an actual superhero.  This also doesn’t touch on the fact that Bale can be okay as Batman, but is worse as Bruce Wayne providing none of the emotion that one would expect to see from this film.  Anne Hathaway is another disappointing character, which I blame more on writing of Catwoman, than on Anne Hathaway.  The role is meant to be seductive and sexual, which Hathaway pulls off quite well at various parties and galas which she has broken into it, but towards the send of the film, all the shots of her are overtly sexual and  completely objectify her character, and remove the ability to see her as a serious performance in the film.  There was a good performance though in Blake, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as he showed off some acting chops and showed character change throughout the film, unlike basically anyone else in the film.  And it looks like he could be used in films going forward, so that gives me some hope for a franchise that should be moving forward still, even without Nolan and Bale.

Critically this film had much of the look without any of the flare.  Nolan got lost in the fact that this was his last film trying to create this grand plot that would allow him to reference extensively the previous two films.  This film seems to be his good bye and he leaves major issues with the timing of the story, figuratively and literally, where Batman is trapped in a prison called the pit, gets out, and in 6 hours is back on Gotham which is shut off from the outside world.  Or Batman being in one place in Gotham, showing a time counting down, at another place in Gotham and considerably too little time has passed.  The music also isn’t as tightly done as it should be and as one would expect it to be.  It doesn’t take the audience out of the film, but it doesn’t drive them deeper in.

Overall this isn’t a bad film, it is entertaining, but it isn’t anything special for several reasons.  Firstly, the story got to big on Nolan, he wanted to make an epic swan song for him to leave on, and he drew it out too long and added things that weren’t needed.  This is fairly understandable though, it was an entertaining 2:45 film, but would have been a better 2:00 film.  Secondly, Batman is more about the villains then the hero, Batman himself isn’t all that compelling, he is a man on a mission to take down bad guys, he doesn’t have a huge personality of his own.  His villains do, however, and with Ra’s Al Ghul, Scarecrow, and The Joker, we got that, with Bane we got none of that.  There are at  least 3 Batman movies better then this one.  But go to it not for critical prowess or expecting it to be as great as The Dark Knight and you should enjoy this film.

Entertainment Grade: B

Critical Grade: B-/C+

Overall Grade: B-

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Thor

May 6, 2011

Thor

This film might be second only to the first Iron Man when it comes to Marvel world films.  It is put together so nicely and precisely the fact that the dialog is hokey at points in time isn’t really noticeable, and the fact that the plot might not be 100% solid is also easy to gloss over.  It simply is a fun action/adventure super hero film that is a blast to watch.  Kenneth Branagh does a great job putting this all down onto the screen.

The story is that of how Thor gets banished from Asgard and the story of his redemption.  Thor is a brash young prince who is more of a warrior than a leader and who can’t see how his father’s, Odin, rule is so strong when he doesn’t show off his force.  When Asgard in infiltrated by ice giants, Thor along with his brother Loki and some of Thor’s closest friends decide to disobey Odin and solve the problems themselves.  Things go wrong and Thor is banished from Asgard to Midgard (Earth) and separated from his hammer, Mjillnar.  Odin enchants that hammer that only someone with the heart of Thor can lift it.  Thor tries, but fails.  It isn’t until he sacrifices himself for the good of others that his hammer returns to him.  When that happens he has to deal with the disarray that has fallen on Asgard under Loki’s rule.

The acting in this film is surprisingly strong.  Chris Hemsworth really fits into the role of Thor and even with some very corny lines, he delivers them in such a way that they are believable, especially in the Earth setting.  There are a few other characters who are really strong, Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings both outshine Natalie Portman as the humans who befriend Thor.  Skarsgard is very good in his role as playing an older wiser professor who is doing research with Portman’s character, and Kat Dennings has some great one-liners that she delivers as Portman’s intern.  Asgard also has some solid characters, Tom Hiddleston oozes with the kind of charm and cunning that Loki should have.  And Anthony Hopkins gives a good performance as Odin.  The whole cast just seems to have gelled together.

Technically Kenneth Branagh has done a good job with this film.  The script is a little bit rough at times with the dialog and the plot doesn’t hold together perfectly, but for the most part it works extremely well, and Branagh has taken the short comings and hid them quite well.  He got a ton out of the talent that he was given for the film and while this film has a lighter feel than some superhero films, most notably the Batman films, it is clear to see many tie ins to other Marvel universe films.  There is a reference to the Hulk, an appearance by Hawkeye, and references to Tony Stark as well.  Visually it is fun as well, Asgard doesn’t completely hold together in terms of CGI, but it has a royal grandeur that one would expect from the home of the Norse Gods, and the town in New Mexico where Thor lands is spot on for the comics.

Overall this was a better film than I was expecting, even with Rotten Tomatoes showing the top critic rating at 80%, I had heard about a few struggles with the dialog and plot and figured I might have issue with that.  But they do a very good job of glossing it over and making it very very fun to watch, which fits very well into the world that was created for Tony Stark.  It is very much worth checking out if you want to see the first giant film of the summer, and this is probably going to be one of the better ones and deservedly so.

Entertainment Grade: A

Critical Grade: B+

Overall Grade: A-

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Kick Ass

January 19, 2011

Kick Ass

 

What happens when a geeky kid decides that he wants to become a superhero and wants to do something more with his life and be noticed?  Not all that much good.  This film is very well crafted and creates great characters, and while parts of it end up being quite predictable towards the end, it is put together well enough that you don’t notice that.

As my opening sentence says, the story is that of a nerdy kid who decides that he is going to become a superhero.  He has no formal training and he has no idea what he is doing, but that is his goal, and when he puts on the costume, he becomes something more than the geeky kid who girls don’t notice that he is.  His forays into the seedy underbelly of his town don’t go all that well, he gets beaten up and battered on several occasions, things really don’t start going his way until Hit-Girl, another superhero shows up with Big Daddy.  They end up saving Kick Ass’s ass, for lack of a better way of putting it.  The story then switches focus as you get a bigger picture as to what is going on the city, and why Hit-Girl and Big Daddy are doing what they are doing.  Kick Ass takes a step back from his superhero life when a girl that he likes starts taking notice of him (granted she thinks he’s gay, but that is a minor detail for him).  Things are going well until Red Mist reaches out to him.  Red Mist and Kick Ass run into some troubles and they go to Big Daddy and Hit-Girl for help.  But things aren’t quite as they seem and Kick Ass has to become a real hero.

The acting in this film is very good.  Nicholas Cage, known mainly for his terrible work, does a very good job in this film as Big Daddy.  His generally slightly creepy and off vibe that he gives off, or the generally slightly off vibe might be a better way of putting it, works really well for this character.  Chloe Moretz plays Hit-Girl, and for a child actress she does a great job.  Her innocence on screen combined with the profuse amount of language that spews from her mouth works as a comedic element and she does a great job being someone who has had no childhood or life.  Christopher Mintz-Plasse (of Superbad fame), plays Red Mist, this role has some of the whiny nasily pansy characteristics that you expect from him in his roles, but it takes a slightly darker turn than the most lovable character from Superbad who most guys wish that they were to some extent.  Aaron Johnson plays Kick-Ass and like Moretz, he doesn’t have a ton of previous experience (some but nothing as major as this role), but he does a very good job.  He is sufficiently awkward and hopeful in his character, and his character makes the viewer want to be a better person.  Mark Strong, from Sherlock Holmes, plays another villain and does a good job of it again.  The rest of the supporting cast is solid, even though for some reason, Clark Duke, Hot Tub Time Machine, rubs me slightly the wrong way in most of his films.

Visually this film works well, it isn’t shot in the dark and gritty style that we see the Batman films shot in, but it has realism to how it is shot that you don’t always get in superhero films.  The costuming also needs to be mentioned, which is rare, but they do a good job with the superhero costumes and making them something that is unique and that sticks out from the realistic surroundings of the characters.  The script is impressive as well.  It blends comic book excitement with real emotions.  John Romita Jr and Mark Millar did a great job on the source material, and Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn did a great job adapting it for the screen.  And Vaughn needs to be applauded for his work directing this film and getting good performances from his cast.

This is a film that I highly recommend.  It won’t win any awards, but it is very strong in terms of every area and has a very good story to it that has more depth than many of the wishy washy superhero films and better character development than most as well.  It won’t sit quite right with people who expect some normal fun superhero film, but it is part of a new breed of hero films that are changing how superheros are to be looked at, and in many ways this trend of change is happening in comic books as well.

Entertainment Grade: A-

Critical Grade: B+

Overall Grade: A-

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Iron Man

May 5, 2010

Iron Man

I am Iron Man, well, maybe not literally, but I wish that I was.  A Bruce Wayne type of Super Hero who has all the toys and money you could want in the world.  It doesn’t have the same kid type of feel as the Spiderman or X-Men, and I don’t mean that it is purely for kids, but it is a whole lot lighter, and it isn’t as dark as Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, but it is a nice blend of the two.

The story starts off with Tony Stark, billionaire playboy, in the desert in Middle East showing off a new weapon created by Stark Industry.  It shows off beautifully and things are very good, unfortunately things don’t go so well on the ride back when their convoy is attacked and Stark is taken hostage.  He is injured where he gets his power system, holding the shrapnel in place, and he is forced to build a missile system, but instead he builds himself the first Iron Man suit.  He escapes using it and returns to America where he builds a new, better, more powerful Iron Man suit.  Things are going well, he is able to save some of the people and exact revenge on some of those who had captured him.  Stark Industry badgers Tony Stark into giving them the plans for the Iron Man suit, however, his business partner Obadiah Stane, goes to the man who had captured Tony Stark and gets the plans for the suit and builds his own.  Tony Stark has to take on the new iron creation and save his assistant Pepper Potts before disaster falls.

The acting in this film is very good.  Robert Downey Jr. plays a boozing, womanizing, narcissist which is a wonderful role for him, because he is boozing, womanizing, narcissist.  He shines forth as Tony Stark and Iron Man, and while he is good in so many other roles, this might be his best.  Obadiah Stane is played by Jeff Bridges, and while Bridges is better in other roles, he plays the bad guy pretty well.  It helps that it isn’t purely an evil role, but it combines a caring character, granted money grubbing character, it is a solid performance.  The other character that I really liked was Stark’s assistant Pepper Potts.  Gwyneth Paltrow does a very good job playing his assistant who is in love with Stark, but is kind of glossed over by him and all the woman that he flirts with and brings home.  Terrance Howard plays Rhodey, Stark’s friend in the military, and while Howard doesn’t return in this upcoming Iron Man film, he gives a good performance.

Visually this film is very good, Jon Favreau is a perfect for directing this film.  Favreau can really take on every genre, but he does a great job with this comic book film.  The story is crisply shown and the acting performances are better then most comic book films.  I know that some people don’t love the action, but I like the crisp clean style as compared to the current fad of a really scattered style that was brought forth with The Bourne Identity.  They don’t try to confuse with with the action in the film, which is kind of a nice change.  And this film has a kick ass sound track.  It has that hard pounding rock track with AC/DC and Black Sabbath.

Overall this is one of the more entertaining super hero films.  It blends a little seriousness in the plot line but the more light hearted side of Tony Stark’s character.  I’m definitely looking forward to the next one, and I don’t know if it can live up to the standard of the first one, but it should be entertaining, which is why the first Iron Man gets reviewed right now.

Entertainment Grade: A

Critical Grade: B+

Overall Grade: A-

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The Crow

April 28, 2010

The Crow

This is a film that people seem to love or hate, which I mainly attribute to the fact that the people who love it make it out to be something more then it is.  This film is simply a dark super hero film with some fun action sequences, some symbolism and not much else in terms of a great underlying message.  It has a strong music score and is entertaining to watch.

The mythology surrounding the crow is that when someone dies a brutal death, a crow, can bring them back from the other side to exact judgment on those who killed them.  In this case, Eric Draven and his fiance are murdered by a gang who is running the town.  Draven comes back a year later, on Halloween, to exact his revenge.  He takes on a colorful group of bad guys working almost along side the law but just outside of it.  Only one police officer and Sarah, a young girl who was a friend of him and his fiance know who he is and what is going on.  Eventually the bad guys figure out that the crow who is following him around holds Draven’s life and is giving him is undead powers.  They go after the crow and lure him into a trap by using Sarah.  Draven must then fight to save her from Top Dollar who is running the whole city.

The acting in this film is pretty nondescript.  Eric Draven, who has the most screen time, is played by Brandon Lee who does a solid job in the role.  Brandon Lee died during a mishap on the set of this film so a few of the scenes of Eric Draven aren’t actually Lee but recreated from other footage in the film.  Sarah is the next biggest character, in terms of screen time, and she is played aptly by Rochelle Davis who, for a child actress, does a good job and this is the only film that she has been credited with working on.  Bai Ling shows up in this film as a sex crazed and just crazed half sister of Top Dollar and while her performance is poor, as are all her performances, she is probably the most recognizable name in this film.  Ernie Hudson plays the police officer who Draven works with at times and Michael Wincott plays Top Dollar.  Their performances are average at best.

What really makes this film entertaining is the visual aspect.  The film is based off of a comic book, so much of the action is over the top and absurd.   James O’Barr was the original writer of the comic series and strip.  Basically all the film is shot in a series of dark images and at night giving it a properly creepy feeling.  Alex Proyas, director of Dark City, I, Robot, and Knowing, does a solid job of creating an eerie atmosphere for this film.  And while this film is shot in a gritty light, realism isn’t something that it strives for, when you have an undead killer and over the top action, I don’t think it would be possible to have succeed.  I can’t forget to mention the music as the strong rock soundtrack really amps up the energy in the film and meets the over the top action and styling perfectly with music from the Stone Temple Pilots, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, and Rage Against the Machine.

I am one of those who likes the film, but not because it was some great dark comic book/superhero masterpiece.  It isn’t that type of film, Batman Begins would be the only film I qualify as that.  The Crow, while gritty and dark, is much more over the top in terms of action and in terms of the characters.  Someone like the Joker is obviously a crazy villain in Batman, but Top Dollar and everyone under him are more in line with a villain from Dick Tracy then anything.  This film is meant to be enjoyed as a fun dark comic book film and nothing more.

Entertainment Grade: B

Critical Grade: B (It gets too much critical love because Brandon Lee died in the making of the film, much like The Dark Knight and Heath Ledger get too much love because he died just after making that film)

Overall Grade: B